Pool fences that comply with the state government's pool safety laws help save lives by preventing young children from climbing over or under them or from getting through gaps or gates.
What is a pool barrier or fence
Pool safety laws refer to pool barriers, which includes gates. We use the term pool fence, and this can be made of a range of components that restrict access to the pool, including:
- posts and panels
- gate units
- gates and door sets
- built or natural walls, including retaining walls
- sides of buildings
- balustrades of a balcony.
Requirements for pool barriers
Fences must be:
- at least 1200mm high (measured from finished ground level to the top of the fence)
- less than 100mm from the ground at the bottom
- built on stable and solid ground
- fences on sloping or stepped sites must be a minimum of 1200mm high at any location.
It's important to measure the fence height at a right angle to the ground level or stable surface under the fence, to make sure it is a minimum of 1200mm high at all points along the length of the fence. This can make a big difference if your fence is built on steps or on sloping ground.
You must have at least one gap of 900mm or more between rails on your fence. Measure the gap from the top of one rail to the top of the rail below. We call this space the non-climbable zone.
If the rails are at least 900mm apart on the outside of the fence, vertical elements such as posts, slats or wires can be up to 100mm apart.
If the rails on the outside are less than 900mm apart you have 2 options:
Option 1—Modify the fence so it can't be climbed by:
- fitting a timber wedge (with a minimum 60-degree angle) to the top of the rails
- making sure the vertical palings are very close (with less than a 10mm gap between them).
Option 2— Build your fence more than 1800mm high and:
- put the non-climbable zone on the inside of the fence, measured from the top
- move any objects that children could climb on more than 300mm away from the inside of the fence.
If you want to build a pool fences with glass panels you must make sure the panels:
- are made of reinforced glass
- do not have signs of fracture.
Common problems with glass fences
Owners of glass panel pool fences face a few common problems that may make their fences unsafe:
Ledges on the outside
- Make sure your fence has no accessible ledge greater than 10mm around the outside of the barrier.
- You can avoid ledges by attaching panels to the outside face of the fence base. These are commonly known as pin-fixed panels or face-fixed panels. They should be a minimum of 900mm long on each side of any climbable objects to prevent access to the pool.
Gaps between the panels and stairs
- All pool fences must have no gaps under the bottom greater than 100mm.
- With glass panels it is a common problem to have gaps at stairways greater than 100mm.
Panels for the stairs too low
- Fence height must always be a minimum of 1200mm and must be measured at right angles to the finished ground level or solid stable surface.
- For stairs this means you need to measure from the top of the stair tread nosing straight up to the top of the fence (measure in a right angle to the stair tread).
Wobbly or dislodged panels
- Glass panels can move out of position or be dislodged when the ground or foundation moves with the weather conditions.
- Check the joins and shake the panels to make sure they are firmly in place and haven't dropped so that they reduce the legal fence height.
You can install a temporary fence for up to 3 months, provided it's been inspected and approved by a building certifier or pool safety inspector.
The certifier should issue a Form 16—Inspection certificate/aspect certificate/QBCC licensee aspect certificate.
The pool safety inspector should issue a Form 26 Pool safety nonconformity notice (PDF, KB).
If you need a temporary fence for more than 3 months you must contact the certifier or pool safety inspector to inspect your fence again and provide written permission for you to continue to use it.
The sides of your above-ground pool or spa can be used as part of the fence if they are:
- at least 1200mm high
- non-climbable on the outside with no bracing or supports within the non-climbable zone.
You must have a designated access point (such as a ladder) and this must be surrounded by a permanent fence and gate that complies with the pool safety standard.
You can use the wall of a building on a common boundary if it is:
- at least 1200mm high
- non-climbable on the outside
You may need to build a separate fence where any part of the wall does not meet the pool safety standard.
You might be able to use your boundary fence as a pool barrier if it is:
- at least 1200mm high
- non-climbable on the outside
- has no accessible climbable items within 300mm on the inside.
You may need to modify your existing fence or build a separate barrier to meet the pool safety standard.
If you need to build, replace or modify the fence you share with your neighbour you must follow a few guidelines.
Maintain existing style
Where there is an existing dividing fence you must use similar materials and colours to those already being used, unless this will mean your pool fence will not comply with pool safety laws.
Where the existing fencing is more than 1,800mm high, the replacement fence must be the same height unless your neighbour agrees to change it.
Check the fence can't be climbed on both sides
You must make sure a child couldn't climb the fence from your neighbour's side to get into your pool area.
If your neighbour's side of the fence does not have a minimum 900mm vertical gap (non-climbable zone) between rails, you may be able to:
- install a 60 degree wedge on the rails to prevent them being used for climbing and provide the required non-climbable zone.
- if the fence is at least 1800mm in height—you can have a 900mm non-climbable zone from the top of your side of the fence.
Work with your neighbour
Discuss your fencing work with your neighbour before making any decisions. Talk about changes you need to make to the fence to meet the pool safety laws, or the new fence you want to build to enclose your pool.
If you can't, or don't want to, discuss the work with your neighbour, you must give them a notice about the proposed work using a Form 39—notice of proposed fencing work for a pool barrier (PDF). This form outlines:
- what the fence will look like
- what materials you will use
- who will pay the costs
- what access you need to build the fence.
You need to give your neighbour the Form 39 at least 14 days before starting any work, or at least 1 month before starting work if your neighbour also has a pool.
Your neighbour can:
- agree to the proposal
- contact you to discuss changes
- request an order through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to change your proposal.
Work out costs
The pool owner must pay the full cost where the fencing work is required for a pool fence to comply with the pool safety laws.
If there is a pool on both sides of the dividing fence:
- If both pool owners need to make the fence compliant, the owners share the cost equally.
- If one pool owner requires fencing work and the other doesn't, the owner requiring the work must pay the full cost.
You can use a Form 41—agreement to contribute for fencing work for a pool barrier (PDF) to formalise the agreement with your neighbour.
Gain access permission
If you need to enter your neighbour's property to build part of a pool fence, you must get permission.
Your access request should be:
- reasonable — e.g. between 7am and 7pm
- limited to the part of the land needed to do the work.
If you and your neighbour cannot agree to any aspect of the proposed fencing work either of you can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to obtain an order.
You can only apply to QCAT if:
- you have given your neighbour a Form 39—notice of proposed fencing work for a pool barrier (PDF)
- it is less than 2 months from the date you gave your neighbour the Form 39.
Check the Standard
The Pool Safety Standard provides a range of requirements that a regulated pool must comply with. We recommend that you engage with a licensed Pool Safety Inspector or Building Certifier to assess your pool and provide guidance on whether the pool complies with the standard, and in the case where it doesn't, provide advice as to what can be done to make the pool comply with the pool safety standard,
Check development approvals
Some fences require building approvals.
Building fences higher than 2m
Your local council may have rules about increasing your fence height to more than 2m. Contact them for advice before you build.
Replacing fences on shared pools
Replacing fences on buildings other than houses or townhouses requires building approval.
Maintain your pool fence
Check your pool fence and gate regularly and keep them well-maintained.
Your pool fence must be permanent and well maintained. It can't have anything missing or broken that might allow a child to get through, under or over. Check every section of your pool fence to make sure:
- it is rigid and strong
- every part is held in place securely with screws or permanent fixtures
- it has no holes or gaps greater than 100mm in any direction
- no horizontal rails are broken
- no vertical posts, palings or bars are broken or wobbly
- no glass panels are loose or broken
- no part of the fence can be bent or moved.
Gates in pool fences must:
- automatically close and securely latch without being pushed
- never be propped open.
Check gates after heavy or continued impacts to make sure gates are still self-closing. A heavily kicked ball against the fence or leaning on the gate can cause misalignment of the latch over time and prevent it self-closing.