Councils step up on pool inspections for child safety

Local governments are working to clear a backlog of inspections of private pool safety barriers in the wake of an Ombudsman Western Australia report on children drowning.

The law requires that WA local councils inspect private pools in their jurisdiction at least once every four years to ensure they have complying fences or other safety barriers.

In last year’s investigation report on ways to prevent children’s deaths by drowning, the Ombudsman found that 8,639 private swimming pools in the State were overdue for their four-yearly safety barrier inspections as at 30 June 2015.

The Building Commissioner is now gauging the progress of local councils in addressing the backlog of inspections.

The Commissioner’s inaugural progress report, released last week, found that as at
30 June 2018, the number of overdue private pool inspections in WA had reduced to 3,632.

The Progress report: Local government’s four yearly inspections of private swimming pool safety barriers 2017/18 also revealed that two-thirds (68 per cent) of local governments were now up to date with their pool barrier inspections compared to more than half (57 per cent) in 2015.

“The total number of overdue inspections has dropped significantly over the past three years,” Building Commissioner Ken Bowron said.

“While local governments should be applauded for this improvement, progress must continue and everyone must play their part in reducing drowning risks for young children.

“Several local governments reported difficulties with access to some private properties to conduct the inspections. I urge home owners and local authorities to work together to ensure children are as safe as possible in and around all pools.”

Mr Bowron reminded the community that all private swimming and spa pools containing water more than 30cm deep must have a safety barrier that complies with the laws and restricts access by young children.

Tragically, 18 children aged under five drowned in Australia in 2017-18. Of these cases, two-thirds involved swimming pools and the vast majority were related to accidental falls into the water.1

Non-fatal submersion incidents can also have long-term impacts on children and their families. In a six-year period in WA (2009 to 2015), 34 children died from drowning while more than 2,500 children attended an emergency department or were admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning incident.2

“While there’s no substitute for close supervision of children around water, there’s also no doubt that complying pool safety barriers save lives,” Mr Bowron said.

“If you have concerns about whether your barrier complies with the rules, contact your local government in the first instance.”  

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has several useful resources on safety barriers including the Rules for pools and spas booklet, Thinking of installing a swimming pool or spa? guide and a Rules for portable pools checklist.



  • The Building Commissioner’s Local government’s four yearly inspections of private swimming pool safety barriers 2017/18 is available at the Building and Energy website
  • The requirement for local governments to inspect private pool safety barriers is set out in the Building Regulations 2012 – section 53(1).
  • While some WA rural jurisdictions are excluded from four-yearly inspections, all private pools in the State must still comply with safety barrier laws.


  1. Royal Life Saving Australia: National Drowning Report 2018
  2. Ombudsman Western Australia: Investigation into ways to prevent or reduce deaths of children by drowning


Media contact:  0466 409 828 or

Building and Energy
Media release
20 Sep 2018

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