Pool fencing and the Building Act regulations
What you need to do legally about having a pool is complex however you must comply with the law if you wish to have a pool.
What follows is basic information to help you along the process, however for more in depth knowledge please read the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) guide to Restricting Access to Residential Pools (Clause F9 of the Building Act) as it spells out in black and white what responsibilities you have when owning a pool. It's also good advice to contact your local council to see what their pool requirements are and for further information.
The objective of the building regulations is to ensure that minimum standards of fencing is made with the objective to prevent death and injury especially for children under five.
These regulations relate to pools and any product other than a home bath. Spa pools which have a lockable cover have their own special rules. More on that later.
You can be fined if local council inspectors find an unsafe pool area. To find your local council and their rules and regulations check here.
A fence or barrier measuring 1200mm in height that restricts access to little ones to the pool, paddling pool, spa pool or hot tub or any other water surface that is bigger than 400mm (40cm) deep, falls under this legislation above and you must comply with it.
The fence has to be less than 100mm from the ground; has no vertical gaps more than 100mm apart; must be securely attached and not be temporary. Check regularly that the fence panels are securely attached and not rotten or warped. The same rules also apply to the surrounding area around a pool.
A pool barrier can be a fence or brick block wall. A house wall can be part of the barrier to the pool or it may enclose the whole pool area so long as it complies with legislation.
Where a building forms part of the barrier all doors must not be able to be opened by children and must either emit a warning when the door is open OR it closes automatically after use.
All barriers must either surround a pool, have no objects or projections that could assist the child to climb over the barrier (such as a bbq, seating or temporary ladder).
The strength of a pool barrier must be kept in mind when creating a fence as well. Something flimsy that can be blown over in a good gust of wind is not an acceptable barrier.
Make sure that all trees and shrubs have been trimmed so that a child cannot climb them easily.
Gates in the pool barrier have to be hinged; be at least 1200mm high; open outward from the pool; swing clear of any obstruction that might hold it open; have a self-closing device that returns it to the shut position; have special hinges that prevent it from being lifted up therefore opening the latches.
It cannot be open if a child bounces on the bottom tail of the gate and the gap between the gate and the fences be less that 100mm.
Your gate also needs to be no more than 100mm above the ground to prevent littles from crawling underneath it.
The latch must automatically close the gate so you must operate to open it, and be in a position where a child can’t reach it.
Windows opening from a building into the pool area must restrict the access – they don’t open fully or can be locked.
If a balcony protrudes over a pool the same rules apply. You must prevent access to the pool by children.
Any climbable objects such as chairs, ladders, trees or pot plants must be removed from around the pool area and all pool toys need to be deflated and put out of reach.
Any ladder or anything else that offers access to the pool must have a barrier to prevent it being used and if it is portable it must be locked away when the pool is not in use.
In the case of a spa or hot tub, a lockable lid must be used. It must not be able to be readily opened by children and it automatically returns to a closed position.
It must be able to withstand a child standing on it and can return to a closed position and have signage indicating its child safety features to tell everyone how to use it.
It must be convex (leaning out to the edge) so the water does not pool in the centre of the cover thus creating a drowning hazard.
A spa pool is defined as a water surface of five square metres of less with walls that are 760mm above the floor and is designed for therapeutic or recreational use.
There shall be no objects or projections that would assist your little one to climb into the pool.
Strength of the cover must be able to hold a child’s weight (around 20kgs).
The lid must have the following signage: “WARNING: This spa pool cover must be kept locked except when under adult supervision”.
It is summer and it's hot and you purchase a pool for the back yard from your local retailer. If it is deeper than 400mm it is subjected to the same rules as above - meaning it must have a 1200 fixed childproof fence with a self-closing gate opening outwards.
Retailers must be certain that some paddling pools that they sell carry warning labels that alert customers to the strict safety fencing laws.
Any pool that is under 400mm of water is exempt from the Building Act but it should be emptied every day, so it doesn’t present a drowning hazard. Remember to deflate all pool toys as they can act as an enticement into the water for children.
For more information contact your local council here
Make sure that all the pool suction fittings and plumbing grates secure and in good condition. Does the adult who is supervising your children know how to turn this equipment off and are the pool chemicals locked away securely and your child can’t get into them?
Have you got a current first aid certificate? Do you know how to rescue breathe and CPR? Also, have a first aid kit handy which is easy to access. Do all of you family members know how to ring for an ambulance or medical services? See here for more.
None of the above actions takes away from active supervision of a child when near a pool or body of water. This means being within arm's reach of the child in, on or around water.
Never leave the supervision of your children to an older child and if in a group, nominate an adult supervisor to watch out for the children.