High failure rate in backyard pool fence inspections in St George and Sutherland Shire

Home owners are encoiuraged to have their pool fence inspected by a council or accredited private certifier. Picture: supplied

Home owners are encoiuraged to have their pool fence inspected by a council or accredited private certifier. Picture: supplied

More than half of nearly 1400 backyard swimming pools in St George and Sutherland Shire that underwent official inspections over the last year were initially found to have unsafe fencing.

The revelation comes after a spate of tragedies involving backyard pools over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Four toddlers have lost their lives in backyard pools in NSW since December 18.

Another 15 lives have been lost in other water-related deaths, which the Royal Life Saving NSW says is an “unprecedented” number.

A total of 21,516 pools in Sutherland Shire have been added to the NSW Swimming Pool Register by their owners as a result of laws that came into effect two years ago.

A council spokesman said 1110 inspections were carried out last financial year, with 537 swimming pools found to be compliant.

”When a pool is found to be non-compliant the pool owner is issued with a ‘notice of intention’ with a direction to carry out works,” the spokesman said.

”The owner then has 14 days to submit any comments.

“Following 14 days, any owner comments are considered and a direction to carry out works is issued under section 23 of the Swimming Pools Act.

“The time frame depends on works required.”

The rate of compliance in Sutherland Shire has improved greatly over the last two years.

In 2014, the council revealed more than 90 per cent of 850 pool fences checked by council officers failed their first inspection.

The majority of pools required between two and four additional inspections before they were deemed compliant, a council spokeswoman said at the time.

Mayor Carmelo Pesce said, while the improvement was welcome, the proportion of non-complying pools was still far too high.

“I would like to see the rate of compliance rise very quickly to 80-90 per cent if possible,” he said.

“We have a very good inspection program, and other councils have contacted us for advice.”

Cr Pesce encouraged home owners to apply for an inspection by a council or an accredited private certifier.

The council employs three pool inspectors.

In the Georges River Council area, 285 pools were inspected in 2016.

“More than half of them were found to be non-compliant at the first inspection,” a spokeswoman said. 

“The areas of non-compliance detected included footholds placed too close to the pool fence, gates that did not self-close or self-latch, resuscitation signs that were missing and excessive gaps under or to the sides of pool fencing.”

The spokeswoman said the council “actively pursued” owners of pools found to be non-compliant to ensure the problem areas were rectified.

“Due to these actions, the majority of pools in the local government area meet the requirements of the swimming pool regulations,” she said.  

​Regulations relating to the sale of properties with swimming pools were recently changed.

The Georges River Council spokeswoman said an owner was now allowed to sell a property without a compliance certificate.

”This can occur on the basis that the owner has a Swimming Pool Certificate of Non-Compliance, which informs the new owner of what defects need to be rectified,” she said.

“A new owner has 90 days from settlement to make the pool barrier comply.

“If an owner wishes to lease a dwelling with a pool, they still require a Swimming Pool Compliance Certificate prior to occupation.”