Common Myths about the new Queensland Pool Safety Regulations

On 1 December 2010, the Queensland Government introduced a state-wide regulatory system for pools and spas. The regulations cover everything from which pools need to be inspected to a code of ethics for pool safety inspectors, and of course, hefty fines for non-compliance.

Unfortunately, the regulations aren't all in one place. The Government isn't making a splash, the relevant websites and enforcement methods are still evolving, and the downloadable documents are overly complex and refer to other documents that aren't available to the public.

The purpose of this page is to dispel some of the myths surrounding the regulations, and to give advice to pool owners on how to ensure they're complying with the new regulations at the lowest possible cost.

Myth 1: There is now one pool safety standard, the Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4, that replaces 11 different pool safety standards.

Myth 2: Every pool owner in Queensland must now have their pool inspected.

Myth 3: Every pool in Queensland must be registered on the Qld Pool Safety Register, and in order to do this, the pool must be inspected.

Myth 4: A pool safety certificate must be renewed every two years.

Myth 5: By 30 November 2015, every pool must be certified.

Myth 6: If a pool was recently built and has a Final Inspection Certificate (Form 17), it does not need a pool safety certificate.

Myth 7: Spas are exempt from the new regulations.

Myth 8: All pool safety inspectors are the same, so the best way to find one is to search the web and pick the one who offers the lowest price.

Myth 1: There is now one pool safety standard, the Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4, that replaces 11 different pool safety standards.

Fact: There may be one pool safety "standard" but there is no single document that explains all the regulations. Even the Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part 3.4 (or QDC MP3.4) contains many references to other documents, dating as far back as 1975, which must be read in conjunction with it to get the full picture. QDC MP3.4 is a list of amendments to other documents and a collection of illustrations with minimal text -- not a standard unto itself.

Advice to pool owners: Don't even try to find the mythical new "standard." Only pool safety inspectors have even been told how to obtain and cross-reference all the documents that comprise the standard. The only place to see the regulations in their entirety without weeding through hundreds of pages of government-speak is to obtain a comprehensive, plain-English pool safety checklist. You can obtain one by clicking here.

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Myth 2: Every pool owner in Queensland must now have their pool inspected.

Fact: Not true. Only homeowners who are selling or leasing their properties, and owners of short term accommodation (hotels, motels, hostels, caravan parks, holiday units) must have their pools inspected and certified. There is one exception to this: homeowners who are selling but do not wish to have an inspection have the option to issue the buyer a "Form 36" (Notice of No Pool Safety Certificate) which states that the seller is leaving it up to the buyer to bring the pool up to compliance within 90 days after settlement.

Advice to pool owners: If you receive a letter from an inspector and you are not selling or leasing, and you believe your pool is compliant, discard the letter. If you are concerned about your pool, or want an inspection even though it's not required by law, shop around. Visit the Department of Local Government and Planning website (https://www.smarteda.qld.gov.au/pools/inspectors/inspectorSearch.action) for a list of inspectors

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Myth 3: Every pool in Queensland must be registered on the Qld Pool Safety Register, and in order to do this, the pool must be inspected.

Fact: Every pool must be registered by 4 November 2011, but "registering" a pool simply means notifying the Qld government, via the Department of Housing and Public Works website (https://www.smarteda.qld.gov.au/pools/properties/propertySearch.action), that you have a pool. The pool does not have to be inspected unless you are selling, leasing, or running a short term accommodation facility.

Advice to pool owners: The Queensland government is threatening substantial fines for homeowners with unregistered pools. It costs nothing to register a pool. Visit the website shown above, and search on your property's address. If the address is not found, click on "Request the Pool Safety Council add this location to the register." If the property is shown as not having a pool, click on "alert the Pool Safety Council." If you do not have access to the internet, or have trouble searching the register, simply call any pool safety inspector. They should be able to check whether your pool is registered, and if not, register it. There should be no charge for this service.

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Myth 4: A pool safety certificate must be renewed every two years.

Fact: For "non-shared" (private) pools, the safety certificate does expire in two years, but the regulations do not state that the pool owner must have it renewed. Only "shared" pools and leased properties are required to continually renew their certificates.

Advice to pool owners: Keep an eye on the Pool Safety Council website (http://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/construction/BuildingPlumbing/PoolSafety/Pages/default.aspx) and newspapers to see if this loophole in the regulations changes. If not, do your best to keep your pool compliant, but don't worry about getting another inspection when your certificate expires, unless you are selling or leasing.

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Myth 5: By 30 November 2015, every pool must be certified.

Fact: Not true. By 30 November 2015, every pool must be "compliant" with the December 2010 regulations. Until then, homeowners are responsible for ensuring their pools comply with the regulations that were in effect at the time the pool was builtHomeowners are entitled to inspect their pools themselves. They can't issue their own certificates, but the current legislation does not require a certificate, even by November 2015, unless the home is being sold or leased.

Advice to pool owners: Unless you're selling or leasing your property, save your money by conducting your own pool safety inspection. Check regularly, especially that fences and gates are in a good state of repair. If you are unclear about the regulations or need better information than that available on the government website, you can download a comprehensive checklist by clicking here Finishing Touch Pool Safety Checklist .

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Myth 6: If a pool was recently built and has a Final Inspection Certificate (Form 17), it does not need a pool safety certificate.

Fact: This is true only if the inspector has registered the Form 17 on the Qld Pool Safety Register.

Advice to pool owners: If you are selling or leasing, and have a current Form 17 (they generally expire after two years), check the Qld Pool Safety Register. If your pool is listed as not having a certificate, you should contact the inspector who issued the Form 17, or Council, to find out why. They may be able to update the Pool Safety Register and eliminate the need for another inspection.

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Myth 7: Spas are exempt from the new regulations.

Fact: Although the regulations do not specifically include the word "spa," they do define the term "swimming pool" as a structure capable of holding at least 300 mm of water and having a filtration system; hence, most spas would be classified as pools, and are therefore subject to the new regulations.

Advice to spa owners: Have your spa fenced, child-proofed, and inspected as if it were a pool. If this is not practical, consider excluding the spa from the sale and take it with you. The regulations say nothing about spas that are being moved off the property prior to settlement.

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Myth 8: All pool safety inspectors are the same, so the best way to find one is to search the web and pick the one who offers the lowest price.

Fact: Not all inspectors are the same. Most inspectors have no building or fencing experience, and their licence does not permit them to carry out repairs. They are unable to design solutions or recommend the best materials for a given situation. They will issue a Non-conformity Notice -- some even use off-the-shelf software to generate this report -- and it will invariably be too generic or too cryptic for the pool owner to see exactly what needs to be done. Once the pool owner has endured the pain of interpreting the report, then having the repairs done, these inspectors will charge for a return visit.

A small percentage of inspectors have a licence with no conditions. These inspectors have proven, in one way or another to the Pool Safety Council (now known as the QBCC) that they have the experience and credentials to carry out repairs to fencing and gates.

Advice to pool owners: If your pool fencing is new and set in a simple, level landscape, your pool may pass inspection the first time around. In Finishing Touch's experience, approximately one in twenty pools does.

In this case, it is probably worth the gamble of engaging a bargain basement inspector with a Search Engine Optimised website. A recent Google search of "Cheap pool safety inspections Brisbane" resulted in 478,000 hits; the first three entries advertised inspections for $89.00. At this price, it is most likely the inspector has not been in business for long, or won't be in business much longer: it is impossible to offer consistent, professional inspections and repair services for this price.

If, on the other hand, you have any reason to believe your fencing won't pass a first inspection (e.g., your landscaping is complex, your fencing is more than a few years old, you have shrubs, trees or structures close to or intersecting the pool fence, or you are aware of problems such as sticking gates or insufficient fence heights), look for an inspector who has:

  1. an unconditional licence;
  2. demonstrated building or fencing experience such as a QBSA Builders' licence or a list of customers for whom he has carried out repairs or a web site that specifically lists the services the inspector offers;
  3. customer testimonials that specifically mention the inspector's repair services (avoid web site testimonials that simply complement the inspector on things like punctuality and quality of the Non-conformity report).

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