SPASA Victoria has ramped up its child safety initiative in lobbying the state government to legislate mandatory three-yearly inspections of swimming pool and spa barriers.
SPASA is urging the government to:
1. Immediately make pool barrier compliance certification mandatory for all properties sold or leased in Victoria;
2. Introduce a mandatory barrier inspection protocol that ensures all residential properties with a pool or spa in Victoria are inspected every three years.
SPASA Victoria says the recent experience in Queensland and NSW has been that the development of a swimming pool register and appropriate inspectors course has taken up to five years to develop and implement.
“As responsible industry leaders, SPASA Victoria will campaign tirelessly until pool and spa barrier inspections are legislated in Victoria,” says SPASA Victoria CEO, Brendan Watkins.
While highlighting the fact that swimming pools are wonderful additions to the lifestyle of any Australian home, and especially important given the current childhood obesity epidemic, he says SPASA wants to promote the safest possible outcome for pool and spa use. It is for this reason that they have maintained a “safety first” approach.
“What we know is that our members are in the field seeing backyard pools seven days a week and many, many pool barriers have not been maintained and are not safe. Between 2004 and 2015, Victoria lost 25 children in backyard pool drowning fatalities. Recent media coverage regarding barrier inspection failures by local councils underlines this fact. Knox Council recently inspected 100 backyard pools and found the ‘vast majority’ did not comply with state government standards. Among problems were rundown fences and gates that didn’t work properly, as well as vegetation that had grown too close to barriers which posed a climbing risk. Legislating mandatory pool barrier inspections will keep our kids safe.”
Failed inspections in Victoria
A recent survey of eighteen City Councils reveals that the vast majority of backyard pools and spas are consistently failing barrier inspections.
BOROONDARA – 24 pools inspected, zero compliance
DANDENONG – 22 pools inspected, zero compliance
FRANKSTON – No exact figures available but issues 40-55 non-compliance notes a year
GLEN EIRA – 195 pools inspected, more than 98 per cent failed to comply
HUME – 196 pools inspected, “at least 90 per cent” failed to comply
KINGSTON – Could not say how many inspections were made or how many pools complied
KNOX – 100 pools inspected, no figures provided but the “vast majority” failed to comply
MACEDON RANGES – No proactive pool inspection program and no figures available
MAROONDAH – 270 pools inspected in the past 18 months, 98 per cent failed to comply
MONASH – 151 pools inspected, only eight complied.
MOONEE VALLEY – 27 pools inspected, zero compliance
MORELAND – 130 pools inspected, “many” failed to comply
MORNINGTON PENINSULA – 261 pools inspected, zero compliance
NILLUMBIK – 75 pools inspected, 23 complied
STONNINGTON – 60 pools inspected, zero compliance
WHITEHORSE – 100 pools inspected, zero compliance
WHITTLESEA – 49 pools inspected, five complied
YARRA RANGES – 61 pools inspected, nine complied
Pool and spa barrier inspections are currently mandatory in NSW, Queensland and WA. Since the introduction of mandatory barrier inspections in WA in 1992, there has been a 58.7 per cent decrease in the average number of toddler drowning deaths.
“This Western Australia data proves that mandatory barrier inspection legislation works.”
Kidsafe Victoria also supports the call for the introduction of mandatory pool and spa barrier inspections in Victoria.
“The recent statistics from Knox Council highlights the need to have a co-ordinated, State-wide system in place where pool and spa barriers are regularly inspected,” says Jason Chambers, Kidsafe Victoria general manager.
CEO of Aquatics and Recreation Victoria, Anthony McIntosh says that Victoria’s aquatics and recreation industry is very supportive of SPASA’s proposed measures, which will unquestionably prevent fatal and non-fatal drownings every year.
“For pool owners with existing pool barriers, to have the discipline to maintain these to a safe standard over the life of the pool will make an enormous difference to the safety of the pool – week in, week out.”
The 2012 Coroner’s Inquest into the death by drowning of Victorian toddler Lauren Harris made seventeen recommendations, all of which SPASA Victoria endorses, and 10 of which are particularly relevant to this discussion.