|5 November 2002|
Poor fence maintenance compromises pool safety
Lack of fencing maintenance is making many Christchurch swimming pools unnecessarily dangerous, according to Willis Heney of the Christchurch City Council’s Environmental Monitoring. “While there are still some people with unfenced pools, most inadequate fences are those that may have once complied with swimming pool fencing regulations but have fallen into disrepair.”
“Pool owners often become lax when the pool is out of use in winter,” he says. Plant containers moved alongside fences, a new decking, stacks of firewood and additional garden soil can raise levels around the fence perimeter, allowing a child to climb into the pool area. Trees and shrubs may also become climbing frames for inquisitive youngsters.
Fence maintenance should be checked in spring and then regularly throughout the year, specially if the pool remains full of water during winter. Is the fence in good condition and repair? Is the gate in good working order and does it close freely? Do I regularly leave wheelbarrows, potted plants and other items near the fence?
Willis says it often takes just a few minutes to make a swimming pool fence safe and possibly save a young life. “Almost half of pre-school drownings occur in home swimming and spa pools,” he says “Contrary to popular belief, more than 85 per cent of children who have drowned in home pools either lived in the home or were invited guests,”
The responsibility for preventing a tragedy rests with pool owners, who have a legal obligation to ensure that their swimming or spa pools are fenced in accordance with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and that the fencing is maintained or the pool remains empty.
Under the law, the immediate area around swimming pools and spa pools must be enclosed by a fence at least 1.2 metres high. The fence must be built in durable materials and able to stop a child up to the age of six from climbing over or under it. The door or gate giving access to the pool area must open away from the pool and be self closing. The self-latching gate must never be propped open - it is all too easy to forget and walk away. French doors and windows opening into the pool area must also be fitted with effective self-closers and devices to limit how far windows can be opened.
For new swimming pool owners or those who do not know the fencing regulations, help is available by simply calling the Council’s environmental monitoring team on 941-8406 or visiting the website: http://www.ccc.govt.nz/hazards/poolfencing.asp