Pool fence safer with mandatory standards

Five out of 16 pool fences fail strength test for forced openings.

CHOICE is calling for a mandatory standard for pool fences throughout Australia after five out of 16 fences failed to meet the benchmark for strength and rigidity.

The test checks whether the vertical bars are rigid enough to stop an opening being forced to a size that would allow a young child to gain entry.

While pool owners are required to install a fence that meets standard requirements, there is no obligatory safety standard applied to fences at the time of retail.

This means the onus is on the consumer to install a standard-compliant fence but not on the manufacturers or retailers to supply one.

The results were better than previous tests in 2004, when 18 of the 31 fences failed but CHOICE says they are still not good enough. Any fence that fails this test could pose a safety hazard.

“Consumers need to be confident any fence they buy complies with the safety regulations and can be recalled if found faulty,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

“Responsible fence manufacturers already routinely test their fences to meet the standard so this would not be a burden to most companies.”

In 2007-08, 16 children aged four years or younger drowned in swimming pools in Australia. According to a recent Queensland study, the great majority of toddler drownings occurred in pools that did not comply with fencing requirements.

The CHOICE report says pool fence installers should be licensed to ensure they know the relevant regulations. And regular inspection, as is done in WA, should be implemented in all states to ensure pool fences aren’t just safe when installed, but remain safe for the rest of their existence.

“While no fence can replace the need to supervise young children at all times in and around the pool, adequate pool fencing is an integral part of pool safety,” said Zinn.

“Correct installation and use are essential, but it’s also vital that the fence be correctly designed and sturdily built so that youngsters can’t climb it or squeeze through the bars.”

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