The NSW Government has launched an online pool register, requiring every residential pool in the state to be registered by October 29, 2013.
Once the pool is on the register, homeowners can apply for a compliance certificate from council or an accredited certifier, which will be mandatory for properties with a pool before they can be sold or leased after April 24, 2014.
While the aim is to make swimming pools safer and ensure that fences are properly maintained, members of the swimming pool and spa industry have not been brought into the process by being eligible to inspect the pools.
Council or an accredited certifier can issues certificates of compliance – but these are only required if the pool is to be sold or leased. To be registered on the online database, the pool owners are expected to “self-certify” – that is, go through a checklist in an attempt to make sure the pool is compliant with AS1926.1 (2012).
SPLASH! has already received a number of calls from industry members who are being contacted by pool owners, unsure how to self-certify their pools, and wanting advice on how to proceed. Many seem to be uncomfortable in undertaking the certification by themselves, considering the serious responsibility and the need to comply with Australian standards and state regulations. Pool owners face fines of $220 if they fail to register their pools, up to a potential $2200 if the matter is referred to court.
Local councils can charge up to $150 for an initial inspection, and up to $100 for a second or subsequent inspection. However, private certifiers will set their own schedule of fees, with charges in Queensland giving indications that fees might exceed $400. Compliance certificates will be valid for three years, unless a subsequent inspection finds the pool to be non-compliant.
There is currently no easy path for pool industry members to become pool inspectors in New South Wales. Accredited certifiers under the Building Professional Act 2005 may conduct swimming pool inspections initiated by the pool owner. The minimum qualifications to become an accredited certifier would be Category A3 – which would involve a 2 year TAFE building surveying diploma course, followed by a year of experience working under a certifier.
Swimming Pool and Spa Alliance CEO Spiros Dassakis had lobbied strongly during the consultation phase for industry members to be included – and in many ways it seemed an obvious route. However, the government chose to take a different course which could see a significant shortfall in the number of inspectors who could certify pools. He also lobbied at the time for pool inspection training to be included in the national qualifications for swimming pool and spa technicians, but was unsuccessful.
However, there will be a one-day course held at North Parramatta on May 16 including information on pool safety focussing on both fencing AS1926.1 and hydraulics 1926.3. Contact the Alliance for more information.
Also, Royal Life Saving has put out a handy Be Safe Pool sheet to help understand the pool register.
In a situation that might be confusing for pool owners, there are nine different checklists to download at the pool register website, depending on which type of pool or spa the customer has.
SPLASH! will have more information on this topic in the June printed edition of the magazine.