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Private swimming pools

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If you own a private swimming pool or spa in Western Australia you are required to provide a safety barrier to the swimming pool or spa, as mandated by the Building Act 2011 and the Building Regulations 2012.  The barrier must comply with the provisions of Building Code of Australia (BCA) and Australian Standard AS 1926.1 and AS 1926.2. For post-May 2016 private swimming pool and spas the BCA references AS 1926.1 - 2012 and AS 1926.2-2007.

The drowning of a child is not only tragic but it can also have legal implications for pool owners.

A pool or spa includes a blow up or portable above ground pool when it can contain water that is more than 300 mm deep.

If you wish to install a private swimming pool or spa, you must apply for a building permit for the pool/spa, and the safety barrier. An inspection of the safety barrier is required to be conducted once the barrier is installed, in accordance with regulation 28 Building Regulations 2012. In addition to this inspection, the City of Fremantle is required to inspect the barriers of known swimming pools and spas at least once in every four years.  The City inspects pools and spas on a three yearly cycle. Inspections are carried out by an inspector authorised by the City, which currently is the Royal Life Saving Society (WA) 

This fact sheet by the Building Commission provides general information about the building approvals process for your new swimming pool or spa and it's safety barrier. 

Please also refer to:

Residential Pool Safety Checklist During COVID-19

Local governments, subject to Schedule 5 of the Building Regulations 2012, have a statutory obligation to inspect the safety barriers of private swimming pools and spas so that a period of four years does not lapse between inspections.

Due to the COVID-19 situation there may be implications on the ability of some local governments to carry out pool barrier inspections when they are due. Building and Energy is urging pool owners to be extra vigilant, especially with children being at home.

It is important that residents of premises with private swimming pools that do not get inspected undertake self-assessment of their barrier to ensure that it is maintained and in good working order. Building and Energy has developed the ‘Rules for Pools and Spas – a simple checklist’ to assist those residents.

The checklist does not distinguish between the different requirements for pre-May 2016 and post-May 2016 pools as residents may not know the age of their pool, and it focuses on areas of risk and limits areas of technical compliance.

The checklist is not intended to replace, and is not as effective as, a local government inspection. However, providing this checklist may encourage pool owners to do a self-assessment of their swimming pool barrier. The checklist provides the owner/occupier with an ability to self-assess, reducing, but not wholly negating, risk.

Decommissioning swimming pools and spas

The following information is a best practice guide only. Advice should be obtained from a suitably qualified structural or hydraulic engineer in applying the most suitable decommissioning method regarding the type of swimming pool or spa and your locality.

Neither the Building Act 2011 nor the Building Regulations 2012 define or reference the decommissioning or removal of swimming pools and or spas.  Both these statutory documents however, define a swimming pool as that defined in BCA Volume 1 Part A1.

AS1926.1-2012 defines a swimming pool as: any structure containing water to a depth greater than 300mm and used primarily for swimming, wading, paddling or the like, including a bathing or wading pool, or spa pool.

In an ideal world when the swimming pool or spa is no longer wanted they would be 100% removed from site either by deflating, dismantling, excavating and lifting out, or complete demolition.  Any demolition material to be removed from site and taken to an approved disposal site.  The excavation filled with soil endemic to the site and compacted in a maximum 300mm layers.

The reality is that many below ground pools get buried thus potentially creating future development problems. 

What constitutes decommissioning

By definition decommissioning would be removing aspects that make the structure a swimming pool, such as complete removal, remove its ability to contain more than 300mm of water, remove the access, and remove any filtration system.  The main consideration is the inability to hold water.
The following are examples of the main types of swimming pools and how best to decommission or remove:

Above ground pools

  • Inflatable: deflate and remove
  • Solid sided: Remove liner, ladder, and any filtration system.  Ideally complete dismantling and removal.

Above ground pools installed below ground

a) Minimum requirements, retaining walls and steel frame still in place:

  • remove liner, ladder, and any filtration system.  Ideally complete dismantling and removal.

b) Minimum requirements bury the retaining walls:

  • remove all the above-ground pool structure and filtration system
  • break down the retaining walls to a minimum of 600mm below natural ground level
  • remove the demolished material to an approved disposal site
  • the excavation filled with soil endemic to the site and compacted in a maximum 300mm layers.

c) Total removal:

  • as per b) above but the total demolition of the pool structure including the walls and any footings
  • filling the excavation with clean fill endemic to the site and compacted in a maximum 300mm  layers.

Below ground concrete or fibreglass pools

Minimum requirements:

  • cut a minimum of 2 x 500mm x 500mm squares in the base of the pool (deep end) and remove all the fibreglass or concrete from the pool.  Disconnect the filtration system and any access ladders.

Burying the pool:

  • cut a minimum of 2 x 500mm x 500mm squares in the base of the pool (deep end), and remove all the fibreglass or concrete from the pool.  Disconnect the filtration system and any access ladders
  • cut down the walls of the pool at least 600mm from the top
  • remove the demolished material to an approved disposal site
  • the excavation filled with soil endemic to the site and compacted in layers.

Complete removal of the pool:

  • if the pool is in excess of 40m2 in area an Application for a Demolition Permit is required
  • excavate and lift out fibreglass pools whenever possible
  • demolish and remove the demolished material from the excavation to an approved disposal site
  • the excavation filled with soil endemic to the site and compacted in layers.

Notes: 

  1. In some localities, impervious soil types, or high ground and perched water tables may make holing pools problematic and advice from a suitably qualified structural or hydraulic engineer may need to be sought as to whether this is a viable option.
  2. Pools located less than the depth away from boundaries may require a BA20 and BA20A forms to be signed by the adjoining property owner prior to the below ground pool being removed from site, and a shoring plan provided.
  3. It should be noted that once the swimming pool/spa is decommissioned, if the shell  is ever to be repaired and or renovated and the filtration system reinstated, then an application for a building permit will be required and the safety barrier standard will be the applicable standard of the current day.
  4. Once the swimming pool has been decommissioned please notify the City by emailing to building@fremantle.wa.gov.au.

An inspector authorised by the City will then carry out an inspection on site to confirm. Once the inspection has been completed, the City’s rates section will be advised that the pool shell/spa has been removed.

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