Councils keep heads above water on pool barrier inspections

  • Local governments must inspect private pool safety barriers at least every four years
  • 1.6% of WA pools were overdue for inspection at 30 June 2021
  • 57% of authorities were up to date with their inspections, but this is a decline

Most WA local governments are progressing well with inspections of private pool safety barriers but there is still room for improvement, Building and Energy has reported.

Under WA laws, all private swimming pools, spas and portable pools with water more than 30cm deep must have a safety barrier that complies with the law and restricts the access of young children.

Royal Life Saving Australia reports that on average each year, 15 children under the age of five drown in private swimming pools in Australia. The number of non-fatal drownings is much higher and can also have long-term impacts on youngsters and their families.

WA local governments are required to carry out compliance inspections of the safety barriers of private pools in their districts at least every four years.

As the State Government building regulator, Building and Energy is monitoring local authorities’ progress after an Ombudsman Western Australia report found 8,639 private swimming pools were overdue for barrier inspections in mid-2015.

Building and Energy’s latest progress report reveals that at 30 June 2021, there were 2,673 overdue inspections across WA. As a percentage, 1.6 per cent of pools were overdue for inspection which is on par with the previous reporting period of 2018-19.

Fourteen local authorities, all in regional WA, did not provide data.

The report notes that WA local governments inspected the pool safety barriers at almost 46,500 private properties during 2020-21.

More than half (57 per cent) of the authorities that provided data were up to date with their pool inspections at 30 June 2021. This is an improvement compared to 46 per cent in 2015, as reported by the Ombudsman, but a decline from 2018-19 when around two-thirds (67.5 per cent) of local authorities were up to date.

Building and Energy did not publish a 2019-20 progress report due to the impact of COVID-19 on local governments’ ability to conduct inspections.

In addition to the pandemic, some local governments identified access to properties and staff resourcing as factors that affected their inspection programs.

“I acknowledge the challenges that local government pool barrier inspectors have faced over the past two years and their efforts to continue this important work,” Building and Energy Executive Director Saj Abdoolakhan said.

“However, there is still room for improvement, particularly for local governments with a significant number of overdue inspections and for those that have not provided data.

“Owners and occupants of properties must also regularly check their own pool fences and gates, which should never be propped open or have climbable objects nearby.

“While there’s no substitute for close, active, adult supervision of young children around water, compliant safety barriers undoubtedly help prevent tragedies.”

The progress report, Local governments’ four yearly inspections of private swimming pool safety barriers 2020/21, is available at the Building and Energy website (dmirs.wa.gov.au), along with useful resources including the Rules for pools and spas booklet, Rules for portable pools checklist and Thinking of installing a swimming pool or spa? guide.

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Media contact: BEmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Building and Energy
Media release
09 Dec 2021

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