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22 May 2023

Call for Pool Fencing Standardisation

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A new report on pool fencing legislation in Australia has found significant differences between states and territories, with fencing exemptions still applying to some pools despite the proven effectiveness of pool fences in reducing drowning deaths in young children.

The Royal Life Saving Society – Australia Review of Pool Fencing Legislation in Australia report examines the legislation in every Australian jurisdiction, finding that some still use old Australian Standards or have modified the Australian Standard.

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Officer Justin Scarr said bringing all states and territories into alignment, and including regular inspections of all private swimming pools would save lives.

“The evidence shows a 50 per cent reduction in drowning deaths in the 0-4 age group in the past 10 years, and pool fencing legislation has played a significant role in that reduction,” Mr Scarr said.

“Bringing states and territories into alignment with their legislation would help reduce confusion about the rules that apply for fencing a backyard swimming pool.

“One of the key things we’d like to see introduced across all jurisdictions is systematic approaches to regular inspections of pool fencing.

“When we look at drowning in backyard pools there are four main ways children gain access: a faulty fence or gate; the absence of a fence; the gate being deliberately propped open; and the child climbing over the fence, often using pool furniture or pot plants next to the fence to gain a foothold.

“Regular inspections would make sure wear and tear issues affecting the functioning of the fence and gate are picked up before there is a tragedy. It would also provide the opportunity to remind pool owners about keeping the gates closed at all times and removing items that can be used to climb over the fence.

“For every child who dies in a drowning incident, an estimated eight more are hospitalised as a result of a non-fatal drowning incident, often being left with lifelong effects, including brain injuries.

“While nothing takes the place of active supervision of young children to prevent drowning, we know distractions happen and a functioning pool fence and gate is an important way of keeping children safe when you are momentarily distracted.

“We urge all governments to work together to align the legislation to keep vulnerable young children safe from drowning.”

View the full report:

Download PDF • 5.57MB

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