1 The Environment and Public Affairs Committee’s (the Committee) priority has been to ensure the greatest possible safety for young children in a swimming pool environment. The Committee believes that this can best be achieved through a consistent approach to swimming pool safety education and barrier regulations and compliance.
2 Stakeholders who provided submissions to the Committee supported the Building Amendment Regulations (No. 2) 2001, that came into operation on March 18 2002. These regulations require all pools built prior to 1992 (that is those with Category 3 perimeter fencing) to be upgraded by December 17 2006 to Category 2 - barrier fencing status (that is, fencing that includes self-closing and latching doors and protected windows).
3 Statistical evidence shows that the majority of deaths due to drowning in private swimming pools in Australia involve children under five years of age. (Australian Standard, Swimming pool safety, Part 1: Fencing for swimming pools and Part 2: Location of fencing for private swimming pools, p. 2.)
4 Between 1988 and 1996, 44 children under five years of age drowned in private swimming pools in Western Australia. It was estimated that 99.5percent of the pools involved were constructed prior to 1992 when only Category 3 - perimeter fencing was required. (Waters L. A Descriptive Study of Childhood Drowning in Western Australia: 1987-1996. Kidsafe WA, The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia, September 1998, p. 13.)
5 From the evidence presented in submissions and at hearings, Category 1 and 2 fencing are both significantly more effective at reducing the incidence of young children drowning than Category 3 - perimeter fencing or no fencing.
6 The Committee was not provided with any evidence to suggest that Category 1 - isolation fencing was more effective than Category 2 - barrier fencing at reducing the incidence of young children drowning. To the contrary the information indicated that Category 2 - barrier fencing was just as effective a safety barrier as Category 1 - isolation fencing.
7 Fifty children aged under five years of age drowned in private swimming pools in Western Australia between 1988 and 2000. Of these:
· 25 drowned in pools with Category 3 - perimeter fencing,
· 15 drowned in pools with Category 1 - isolation fencing,
· two drowned in pools with Category 2 - barrier fencing, and
· eight deaths could not be assigned to any pool fencing category.
(Stevenson MR, Rimjova M, Edgecombe and D Vickery. Research Project on the Adequacy of Inspections of Barriers to Private Swimming Pools, 2001. Injury Research Centre Department of Public Health, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley Western Australia 6009.)
8 Based on the information provided to the Committee it is of the view that the most important issue is to ensure that young children are constantly supervised in a swimming pool environment and that swimming pool barriers/fences are compliant at all times. The best way to achieve this is:
· through increased public education about swimming pool safety issues including barrier/fencing requirements, and
· by regular inspections of all swimming pools (for example, every two years).
9 There is considerable scope for an improvement in swimming pool fencing inspection, enforcement and public education. Funding for public education campaigns is particularly important, as it has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of young children drowning by 40 to 60percent. (Swimming Pool and Spa Association of WA submission dated 21/10/2002, p. 8.)
10 A swimming pool safety advisory group, that includes the main stakeholders, should be established along the lines proposed by the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia.
11 To reduce the significant economic impact the current regulations are having on the swimming pool industry, regulatory changes allowing the use of Category 2 - barrier fencing should be made as soon as possible.
Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that Category 2 - barrier fencing, that allows the use of self-closing and latching doors and protected windows, which comply with Australian Standard 1926.1-1993 and 1926.2-1995, be made lawful for all pools, including those built after November 5 2001, and for new pools.
Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends that the Minister for Local Government revise the regulations to this effect as soon as possible.
Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends that the Building Amendment Regulations (No. 2) 2001 that requires all swimming pools with Category 3 - perimeter fencing (that is, those pools built prior to July 1 1992) to be updated to Category 2 - barrier fencing by December 17 2006, remain in force.
Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends that the Government establish a home swimming pool safety advisory group that includes major stakeholders, along the lines suggested by the RLSSA.
Recommendation 5: The Committee recommends that the Government provide resources to the RLSSA so it can provide the executive support for any home swimming pool safety advisory group that is established.
Recommendation 6: The Committee recommends that the Government have the new home swimming pool advisory group initiate among other things:
a) development of a user friendly guide to the regulations and the Australian Standards,
b) development of inspection guidelines,
c) development of inspector training,
d) development of enforcement protocols,
e) recommendations for changes to legislation,
f) public education campaigns,
g) recommendations regarding spas and ornamental ponds,
h) review requirements for swimming pools in regional areas, and
address the other issues regarding current legislation affecting swimming pools raised in the WALGA, SPASA, Kidsafe WA and RLSSA submissions.