Pool safety check - home owners to rate fences

ST GEORGE councils have welcomed the state government's proposed new self-assessment system for backyard swimming pool fencing.

Watchful eye: Rob Mullins stays close to Ethan, 2, and Kaylen, 5. Picture: Jane Dyson

Watchful eye: Rob Mullins stays close to Ethan, 2, and Kaylen, 5. Picture: Jane Dyson

Sutherland Shire Council also backed the legislation, but warned it would put "a highly complex and onerous burden" on residents who might need help from a qualified expert.

The changes, which must be approved by State Parliament, were announced by Local Government Minister Don Page.

Mr Page said home owners would have to list their pool free of charge on a statewide register and vouch that, to the best of their knowledge, it met fencing laws.

Before a property was sold or leased, the pool would need to be inspected and registered as compliant.

Mr Page said owners would be given a year to register and could be fined up to $2200 for failing to do so.

Councils would be required to develop a locally appropriate and affordable inspection program in consultation with their community.

Hurstville mayor Steve McMahon welcomed the measures and said children's safety was paramount. "However, the NSW government needs to provide resources to implement the program to provide a safer environment for our community," he said.

Rockdale Council said it had already introduced a self-assessment system which saw its 2000 registered pool owners sent an assessment form to ensure their pool complied with the Swimming Pool Act and Regulations.

Local Government Minister Don Page said research indicated that by increasing compliance with pool barrier requirements, the rate of infant death by drowning could be reduced by up to 41 per cent.

On average, six children drown in NSW backyard swimming pools each year and about 36 children suffer permanent brain injuries from swimming pool accidents.

Mr Page said the new laws were developed after extensive consultation with councils, water safety advocates, pool owners, NSW agencies and industry organisations.

‘‘Pool owners require support in order to appropriately determine if their pool complies and this is best offered through an initial pool safety assessment by a qualified expert and suitable education to ensure the compliance can be maintained.’’

The council said 21,000 properties were on a register it established in 2006.

The council appointed a pool safety officer two years ago due to the complexities involved and annual updates were provided for council assessment officers and fencing contractors.

A briefing session for building certifiers was being held for the first time this month.

The council said it set up a pool safety stall at this year’s Leader Home Show, demonstrating the correct installation of fencing and gates.

A pool safety information booklet for residents and builders was available on request and could also be downloaded from its website.

TRAGEDY AVERTED

Ethan Mullins, 2, has twice had to be plucked from his home swimming pool after falling in while ‘‘helping’’ his father with maintenance work inside the safety fence.

Rob Mullins, of Caringbah South, said Ethan was never in danger because he was right next to him.

‘‘But it shows what could happen if the pool wasn’t properly fenced,’’ he said.

Mr Mullins said Ethan and his brother Kaylen, 5, were always attracted to the edge of the pool and wanted to put objects in or pull something out.

He and his wife Eimear were very careful to ensure the pool gate was always closed.

Mr Mullins supported the new registration and assessment system but hoped guidelines would be provided in a simple guide.

PLAN TO SLASH DEATHS

Local Government Minister Don Page said research indicated that by increasing compliance with pool barrier requirements, the rate of infant death by drowning could be reduced by up to 41 percent.

On average, six children drown in NSW backyard swimming pools each year and about 36 children suffer permanent brain injuries from swimming pool accidents.

Mr Page said the new laws were developed after extensive consultation with councils, water safety advocates, pool owners, NSW agencies and industry organisations.

What do you think about the changes to legislation and a ''self-assessment'' system?

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