No freestyling when it comes to pool safety

17 November 2020

Hotter, longer summers mean more people spending more time in swimming pools but that situation comes with deadly risks if pool safety barriers are not compliant.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) has launched a safety campaign to educate property owners, pool safety inspectors, property managers, landlords and tenants about their pool safety responsibilities.

The Queensland Family and Child Commission’s 2018-19 Annual Report shows that eight children and young people (aged 0 to 17 years) drowned in Queensland swimming pools in the 2018-2019 financial year.

In 2019-2020, Queensland Health reported a total of 83 ‘immersion incidents’ involving young children in private swimming pools around the State. These are incidents where a child has required medical attention because of immersion in a pool.

QBCC Commissioner, Brett Bassett, said it was a sad fact that every summer brought with it tragic news for some families. 

“Drowning is silent, and supervision is key for protecting children in and around pools,” Mr Bassett said. 

“History shows that when attention lapses, a compliant barrier can be the last line of defence, so greater awareness of pool safety requirements is one way to help reduce these devastating incidents.”

The Queensland Coroners Court recently released its findings into a 2016 tragedy where two young children drowned in a residential swimming pool which subsequently failed a building inspection in 12 areas.

Mr Bassett urged property owners to use the QBCC website’s Compliance Checklist, which quickly and easily checks if a pool meets the required safety standards. 

“If you are unsure about any aspects of compliance, contact a licensed pool safety inspector or building certifier for specific advice about your property,” Mr Bassett said.

“Pool barrier compliance rests with the pool owner but everyone has a personal responsibility when it comes to pool safety.”

Owners of non-compliant pools could receive an on-the-spot fine of $934.15, or a court-imposed penalty of up to $22,019.25

Property owners and tenants have also been reminded that temporary pools, such as those sold at hardware and department stores, must also comply with pool safety barrier laws.

Pool safety laws apply to pools and spas which can be filled with water to a depth of 300mm.

Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Smith, reminded Queenslanders of the need to play it safe in and around the pool this summer.

“A property rented with a swimming pool brings with it many responsibilities, so it’s important that property owners, property managers and tenants understand their obligations and work together to ensure their pool and surrounding areas are safe, compliant and maintained,” Ms Smith said.

“For tenants, setting up a small temporary pool on the property may be tempting as the days warm up, but pool safety, compliance and approvals – including from the property owner –must always remain top of mind.”


The Queensland Family and Child Commission’s 2018-19 Annual Report shows that over the three years to 30 June 2019, 24 children aged 1 to 4 drowned, accounting for 53 per cent of all drowning deaths over this period. Seventeen of these deaths (71 per cent) occurred in private pools.

As at June 30, 2020, there were 400,746 pools on the QBCC’s register of regulated pools.

If an owner does not register their pool or spa, an on-the-spot fine of $266.90 may be issued, or a maximum court penalty of $2,669.

Queensland Health immersion reports are provided to the relevant local government, which is required to inspect the site of the immersion.

If the local government inspection raises concerns about the pool fence at the site of the immersion, the local government takes enforcement action to ensure the pool complies.

If the local government inspection suggests a breach by a pool safety inspector, it is referred to the QBCC, which takes action with the relevant inspector.


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