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Swimming Pools, Spas and Safety Barriers

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in Queensland for children under the age of five.  Active adult supervision, swimming lessons, learning basic CPR and compliant pool fencing can save lives.  Queensland’s Current Pool Safety Laws were introduced in 2009 and apply to all regulated swimming pools in Queensland.  The Pool Safety Legislation is administered by the Queensland Government and you are encouraged to visit the Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW) and Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) websites for comprehensive information relating to pool safety laws.

A list of important links to relevant organisations and contacts can be found at the bottom of this article.

What is a regulated swimming pool?

Queensland pool safety laws define a regulated swimming pool as a private pool or spa on a residential premises that meets ANY of the following criteria:

  • Capable of holding water to a depth of greater than 300 mm
  • Has the capacity to hold more than 2,000 litres of water
  • Has a filtration system.

Most portable/temporary pools or spas purchased from a department store are likely to be a regulated swimming pool, the exception being small wadding pools that do not exceed ANY of the above criteria.

The following are not regulated swimming pools:

  • Ornamental ponds manufactured and used for ornamental purposes
  • Dams used for aquaculture, water storage or similar
  • Spa bath in a bathroom not continuously filled

Pool owner responsibilities

Pool owners with a regulated pool must comply with the current pool safety laws and all relevant legislation regarding the construction, maintenance or alteration of a regulated pool and safety barriers.  The below topics provide information about the mandatory approvals, inspections, certificates and registration of regulated pools.

Regulated Pools and Building Permits/Approvals

Under the Building Act 1975 a regulated pool, including all safety barriers/fencing, is assessable development requiring a development approval for building work (building permit) to be issued by a licenced building certifier.  This includes the construction of a new pool or fence or when making changes to the location, height or style of an existing pool or barrier.  Approval is also required for demolishing or removing a regulated pool.

When a regulated pool is under construction the pool owner is required to have a warning sign in place at all times.  Refer ‘Requirements for CPR and warning signs’ topic on the DHPW website.

The swimming pool must not be filled with more than 300mm of water until you have obtained either a final inspection certificate (Form 17) from your building certifier for permanent barriers or a Form 16 for temporary fencing (valid for three months only).

A Swimming Pools and Spas fact sheet and Application Lodgement Checklist is available from the Building Webpage under Building Standards, Forms and Factsheets. On-the-spot infringements can be issued for non-compliant pool barriers, pools and spas built without approval and other breaches to legislation.

Compliant Pool Safety Barriers

The pool safety laws require pool owners to maintain a compliant barrier around a regulated pools at all times, regardless of when the pool was installed.

For further information on compliant pool fencing refer to the Queensland Development Coce - MP3.4 Swimming Pool Barriers.  Pool owners are required to maintain the pool barriers and ensure that any damage is repaired immediately.

The DHPW website provides a number of resources to assist owners comply with the current pool safety standards, including comprehensive ‘Guidelines for pool owners and property agents’.

A Pool Safety Toolkit is also available from the QBCC website which includes an interactive Pool Compliance Checklist.

NOTE ON BOUNDARY FENCES: It is the responsibility of the pool owner – not the neighbour – to ensure pool safety barriers including non-climbable zones are maintained in accordance with the pool safety laws.  Further information about dividing fences and pool safety can be found in the ‘Guidelines for pool owners and property agents’.  If a dispute arises in relation to boundary fences or overhanging trees/branches you may need to seek advice or direction through the Department of Justice and Attorney-General or the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

COMPLAINTS:  If you have a safety concern about the condition of a swimming pool and/or barrier and are unable to address these with the pool owner, a request can be lodged with Council by calling (07) 3810 6666.  On-the-spot infringements and/or notices may be issued to pool owners or occupiers for a number of breaches in relation to swimming pool safety.

Pool Safety Certificates

A pool safety certificate is required in Queensland when a property with a regulated pool is being sold or leased.  It is valid for two (2) years for non-shared pools and one (1) year for shared pools.

A Form 23 – Pool Safety Certificate is an approved form advising that a swimming pool barrier has been inspected by a licensed pool safety inspector and, at the time of inspection, the pool complied with the pool safety standard.  A Form 23 does not certify that a building development approval (building permit) has been issued for the pool or barriers.

A Form 17 – Final Inspection Certificate issued by a licenced building certifier in relation to a building development approval (building permit) can be used in place of a Form 23 and is valid for the same period of time as a pool safety certificate for the purposes of selling or leasing. To ensure you meet your requirements when selling, purchasing or leasing, refer to the  Pool Safety page on the QBCC website.

Queensland Government Pool Register (QBCC)

All regulated pools in Queensland must be registered with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).  Failure to do so may result in a fine. To check if your pool is registered, or to register your pool, refer to the  Registering your pool’ topic on the QBCC website.

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Signs

From 1 January 2017, all new CPR signs for swimming pools must comply with ANZOR Guidelines No.8 - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation published by the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC).

To obtain a current resuscitation sign please contact your local pool or hardware shop or visit the Australian Resuscitation Council website. For more information refer to the ‘Requirements for CPR and warning signs’ topic on the DHPW website.

Health and Water Quality

Poor management of backyard swimming pools can lead to health risks.  Insufficient chlorination of swimming pools can lead to bacterial and algae growth that may harm swimmers.  Swimming pools that are not filtrated or chlorinated may also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Under the Public Health Regulation 2018 a person must ensure that an accumulation of water at their property is not a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

To prevent mosquitoes breeding in your pool you will need to regularly treat with chemicals (such as chlorine), keep the pool clean and operate a filtration system.  This will also minimise algal growth and any build-up of bacteria.

COMPLAINTS:  If you have a concern about the condition of a swimming pool and are unable to address these with the pool owner, a request can be lodged with Council by calling (07) 3810 6666.

Pool and Water Safety Resources

Website links to a number of organisations who have created programs and resources aimed at educating pool owners, adults and children about imporiving pool/water safety and reducing the number of preventable drownings through active supervision, CPR, learn to swim programs and compliance safety barriers.

Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW) - Pool Safety webpageThe DHPW has responsibility for administering the pool safety standards.  This website contains access to the pool safety standards, owner and occupier obligations and general advice about pool safety.
Queensland Development Code - MP3.4 Swimming Pool BarriersState-wide mandatory standards for pool barriers in Queensland.
Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) - Pool Safety webpageThe QBCC is the statutory body responsible for regulating the pool safety standards.  This website contains information, checklists and safety tips for pool owners.
'My QBCC' websiteAccess to Pool Safety Inspector and Property searches.
Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC)Access to current resuscitation guidelines and CPR signage (ANZCOR Basic Life Support Flowchart).
Queensland Family and Child Commission - Seconds Count CampaignIncludes a range of videos, tips and factsheets about how to keep children safe around water.
Royal Life Saving Australia - Keep Watch Home Pool SafetyAccess to various resources including a Home Pool Safety App and information regarding pool toys, wading pools and pool safety devices.
Kids Alive - Do the FiveProvides targeted resources for children, parents, teachers and community groups.  Includes learning activities, videos and age based safety and swimming tips.