Swimming pools and spas are structures containing water, used for swimming and other water activities.
This fact sheet refers to in ground and above ground pools and spas, with a depth of more than 30cm.
Drowning and near drowning
Other life threatening injuries
Drowning is a leading cause of death among children under the age of five. In NSW, in 2013-14, six children under the age of five drowned with a further 70 children hospitalised for near drowning.1-2 Of near drowning, 10-20% of children will suffer some form of brain damage ranging from mild to severe.3-6
Two of the main causes of drowning include children being left without adult supervision and children accessing swimming pools through fencing that doesn’t comply with the Australian Standards. 7-9
Pools are an obvious risk but children can also drown in baths, spas, dams, rivers, creeks, garden ponds and nappy buckets. It takes as little as 5cm of water and an unsupervised child for a drowning to occur.
The Swimming Pools Act 1992 (NSW), states that all swimming pool fences must comply with the Australian Standard (AS 1926). This Act requires the owner to make sure that a child resistant barrier surrounds the pool. All pool owners must register their pool at on the NSW Swimming Pool register at http://www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au/
The Act also states that all swimming pool water recirculation systems sold in Australia must comply with the Australian Standard (AS 1926.3 – 2003).
Pool fencing is designed to save children's lives by preventing their access to pools. A four sided fence, that does not include any part of the home, has proven to be the safest.10
Pool fencing is a legal requirement and significant penalties of up to $5,500 can be imposed if your swimming pool does not comply.
A fence or barrier must separate the pool from any premises whether public or private. Indoor swimming pools must have child resistant barriers (e.g. child resistant doors and windows). Spas are exempted from needing a child resistant barrier or fence, as long as it is restricted with a child resistant barrier when the spa is not in use (e.g. lockable lid).
The standard swimming pool fence:
The requirements for child-resistant barriers vary depending on when the pool was built and where the pool is located:
All local councils have their own inspection programs, which commenced before 29 October 2013. Local councils can charge pool owners up to $150 for the first inspection and up to $100 if a second inspection is needed (if faults are identified at the first inspection).
As of 29 April 2015, all tourist and visitor accommodation or properties where there are more than two dwellings must have a swimming pool inspection at least once every three years.
As of 29 April 2016, all residential properties with a swimming pool must have a valid certificate of compliance before the property can be leased or sold.
Further information is available in the Protect Your Pool, Protect Your Kids online video and checklist, available on the swimming pool fencing page on the Kids Health website.
To watch an online video on what you should know about pool fencing and the common faults, please visit the Kids Health website.
A checklist is also available to inspect your pool in English and translated into 16 languages.
1. Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA). (2015) Unpublished Data. Broadway, Australia.
2. NSW Ministry of Health (2015) Injury Related Hospitalisations (unpublished data). Sydney: Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence.
3. Ross, F., et al. (2003) Children under 5 years presenting to paediatricians with near-drowning. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 446-450.
4. Kreisfeld, R. and Henley, G. (2008) Deaths and Hospitalisations Due to Drowning, Australia 1999-00 to 2003-04.
5. Pitt, W.R. & Balanda, K.P. (1991) Childhood Drowning and Near-drowning in Brisbane: The Contribution of Domestic Swimming Pools. Medical Journal of Australia, 661-63.
6. The Department of Local Government. (2008) Review of the Swimming Pools Act 1992. [Online]. [Cited: April 15, 2010.] http://www.dlg.nsw.gov.au/dlg/dlghome/documents/Information/Swimming%20Pools%20Act%201992%20Review%20-%20Report.pdf
7. NSW Child Death Review Team. (2015) Child Deaths: Drowning deaths of children (private swimming pools) 2007-2014. NSW Ombudsman. [Online].
8. The Centre for Trauma Care, Prevention, Education and Research (CTCPER) and Kids Health. (2015) The NSW Study of Drowning and Near Drowning in Children (0-16). The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
9. Bugeja L.(2004) Drowning of 0-5 year old children in private swimming pools & spas in Victoria: 1997-2001. Melbourne: State Coroner's Office and Department of Human Services.
10. Thompson DC, Rivera F. (1998) Pool fencing for preventing drowning in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1998, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001047. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001047.