Pool Safety Inspections: changes to pool fence laws for building approvals

Pool Safety Inspections – Changes to Pool Fencing Laws

The law applying to building work for fences for existing pools associated with houses and townhouses changed on 27 July 2012.
This is a red-tape reduction measure designed to assist pool owners who wish to replace their pool barrier or upgrade it to comply with the pool safety standard.

Fencing work not requiring a building approval—new section 5 of schedule 2C

Previously, a building approval had to be obtained before commencing fencing work involving more than five metres of fencing or six fence posts.

Following amendments to schedule 2C (now titled ‘Repairs, maintenance and other work’) of the Building Regulation 2006 (BR), building work for a fence that forms the whole or part of a pool barrier for an existing pool for a house or townhouse will not require a building approval in certain circumstances where a pool safety inspector is engaged.

The requirements difer for complying and noncomplying pools.

Complying pools

Complying pools are those that comply with the pool safety standard and include pools for which a pool safety certificate has been issued or which have a valid building certificate. Fencing work for these pools will not require a building approval where, prior to starting the work, a pool safety inspector has been engaged to inspect the pool within three months of the engagement.

Noncomplying pools

For pools which do not already comply with the pool safety standard, the work will not require a building approval if a pool safety inspector has issued a nonconformity notice for the pool before work commences. The information in the nonconformity notice about how the barrier does not comply and what needs to be done to make it comply will help the pool owner ensure that the works result in a compliant barrier.

Classes of buildings and fence heights

The change only applies to existing pools associated with houses and townhouses. It does not apply to shared pools or—subject to some exceptions—where the top of the fence is higher than two metres above its natural ground surface. The exceptions are where the top of the fence is only higher than two metres above the ground because it is located on an existing retaining wall, existing class 1a or 10 building (e.g. a shed or garage) or another existing structure, provided the fence structure itself is no higher than two metres. The work is not self-assessable and will require a building approval if any part of the fence higher than two metres above the natural ground surface is within 1.5 metres of the boundary of the property.

Offences

It is an offence for the owner of a ‘complying pool’ not to have the pool inspected by a pool safety inspector within three months of engaging the pool safety inspector.

Similarly, it is an offence for an owner performing self-assessable work under a nonconformity notice to fail to have the pool reinspected by a pool safety inspector within the three month reinspection period.

These offences carry a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units* (or $2000). It is proposed to authorise local governments to issue on-the-spot fines of two penalty units* (or $200) for these offences.

If the works do not result in a compliant barrier within the applicable time periods, the pool safety inspector who inspects the pool will issue a nonconformity notice, and the works may continue during the three month reinspection period.

Shielding

Shielding is a commonly used low-cost measure for remedying a noncompliant pool barrier. It is useful to address climbability issues as well as insuicient strength and rigidity of vertical members of a fence.

PSC staff have received enquiries about whether the affixing of shielding to comply with the pool safety standard requires a building approval.

Schedules 2B and 2C have been amended to clarify that shielding to ensure that the pool complies with the standard is permitted without a building approval, regardless of its length.

Apart from this, schedule 2B and schedule 2C, sections 1-4, have not changed. For example, a pool owner may continue to perform work on less than 2.4 metres of fencing or two fence posts, repairs to gates and windows and non-climbable zone works, without engaging a pool safety inspector and the offences mentioned above do not apply.

No change to other pool safety requirements

It is important to note that these changes only determine whether a building approval is or is not required. The changes do not impact on the requirements to obtain a pool safety certiicate on sale or lease.

Temporary fence approval changes

The regulation adopts a revised version of the pool safety standard which provides new requirements for use of a temporary fence that may be used in conjunction with self-assessable work.

The pool safety standard permits the use of a temporary fence instead of a permanent barrier for periods of up to three months provided it is inspected and approved by a building certifier. Further written approval by a building certifier is required for use of a temporary fence for further periods of up to three months. This still applies to work requiring a building approval.

However, for work under section 5 of schedule 2C that does not require a building approval, a temporary fence that complies with the temporary fence requirements of the standard can be used instead of a permanent barrier for a period of up to three months. It may be used for a second period of up to three months if a nonconformity notice has been issued for the pool and for subsequent periods of three months only if a pool safety inspector or a building certiier has given written approval ater inspecting the fence and being satisied that the safety of young children would not be at risk if the approval were given.

This change will provide pool owners who need to replace or repair fencing, particularly as a result of unexpected damage or deterioration, with the ability to immediately put temporary fencing in place before a permanent fence is constructed.

In all cases, a temporary fence may only be used where it complies with the deinition of ‘temporary fence’ in the pool safety standard. ‘Temporary fence’ is deined to mean a fence which is not a permanent structure, has at least one gate, otherwise complies with the standard and is securely ixed to resist reasonably foreseeable actions to which it may be subjected.

The guidelines for pool safety inspectors and owners and agents, to be published shortly on the department’s website, contain some tips for checking that a temporary fence meets these requirements on installation.

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