Swimming pools, spas and safety barriers
In Victoria, the construction and installation of swimming pools, spas and safety barriers and barrier maintenance are all subject to the requirements of the Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations).
The information provided in these pages will help swimming pool and spa owners meet the regulatory requirements for the installation of swimming pools and spas and safety barriers. These pages will also help tenants and property agents understand who is responsible for pool and spa safety.
On average, four young children die in Victoria in home swimming pools or spas each year, and many more are taken to hospital for near-drownings. We encourage the active supervision of young children in and around swimming pools and spas at all times.
Swimming pool and spa owners have a legal obligation to ensure that they maintain the effective operation of swimming pool and spa safety barriers. Gates and doors must remain closed except when entering the pool or spa.
All swimming pools and spas containing water greater than 300 mm (30 cm) must have a compliant safety barrier to restrict access to the pool area by young children (under the age of five). Barriers are required for:
- in-ground pools and spas
- above-ground pools and spas, including inflatable pools, holding more than 300 mm (30 cm) of water
- indoor pools and spas
- bathing and wading pools containing more than 300 mm (30 cm) of water.
Barriers aren’t required for:
- bird baths
- water supply/storage tanks
- fish ponds
- baths used for personal hygiene and emptied after each use
- spas inside a building (e.g. in a bathroom) used for personal hygiene and emptied after each use
- pools or spas that cannot contain a water depth of more than 300 mm
- inflatable swimming pools (typically toddler or wading pools) that cannot contain a water depth greater than 300 mm.
Find out about responsibilities for the maintenance and operation of barriers.
Information for owners of an existing pool or spa
As a pool or spa owner, you have an obligation to maintain the operation of your swimming pool or spa barrier to prevent access to the pool or spa.
The following checklists will help you assess the safety of your barrier. The checklists are based on the relevant barrier standard associated with the date that the pool or spa was installed.
The VBA’s pool and spa safety barrier self-assessment checklists
- Checklist 1 (for pools and spas installed before 8 April 1991) (PDF, 339.48 KB)
- Checklist 2 (for pools and spas installed between 8 April 1991 and 30 April 2010) (PDF, 265.98 KB)
- Checklist 3 (for pools and spas installed from 1 May 2010) (PDF, 589.08 KB)
If you are having any work on an existing safety barrier, a permit may need to be issued to alter the barrier. Work to alter an existing barrier will need to comply with the current Regulations.
Information for people planning to get a pool or spa
In Victoria, the design, construction and installation of swimming pools, spas and safety barriers are subject to strict requirements under the Regulations.
Swimming pools, spas and safety barriers must comply with several requirements, including:
- being constructed by a registered domestic builder or an owner-builder who have an owner-builder certificate of consent
- have self-latching and self-closing pool gates
- safety barriers must comply with AS1926.1-2012.
Property owners and occupants are responsible for making sure pool barriers are maintained, repaired and kept in working order. A new outdoor pool or spa must not have direct access from any building.
The pool and spa installation process
You can engage a registered domestic builder to do the work. If you choose to be an owner-builder, you will need to apply for a certificate of consent from the VBA for work over $16,000. For more information visit Owner-builders.
Swimming pool, spa and barrier building permits
You will need a building permit before installing a pool, spa or safety barrier. The owner of the property will need to appoint a registered building surveyor (private or municipal) to issue the building permit. See Appointing a building surveyor.
You may also need a planning permit or other permit. You should check with your council about any relevant local laws that may apply.
Building permit application
The building permit application must include detailed drawings and specifications of the proposed pool, spa, safety barrier and water recirculation and filtration systems. These must show how the design complies with the relevant standards, including AS1926 Part 1 (Safety barriers for swimming pools), Part 2 (Location of safety barriers for swimming pools) and Part 3 (Water recirculation systems).
The building permit application must list the building practitioners who prepared documents for the permit.
After your permit is issued
Building work on new pools, spas and safety barriers must start within 12 months of the date the building permit was issued. After building work starts, it must be completed within six months.
If the pool, spa and safety barrier is being constructed at the same time as other building work on the same site, it must be completed in the same time frame as the other building work.
Extensions to permits
If the builder or property owner has started building work but don’t believe they’ll be able to finish within the set time frame, they can seek an extension to the permit period through their building surveyor. Any extension is at the building surveyor’s discretion.
If the permit lapses
If a building permit lapses for a swimming pool, spa or barrier, building work must not continue.
If you wish to continue with construction, you may seek a new building permit from the same building surveyor. If construction has not begun, and you don’t want to go ahead with the work, you should notify the VBA and the relevant local council that the work has been terminated.
Building work on swimming pools and spas must be inspected by the building surveyor at specific stages during construction or installation. The minimum requirements are inspections at:
- the completion of any excavation related to the installation of the swimming pool or spa
- before pouring any footing or in situ reinforced concrete member that is specified in the relevant building permit
- the completion of any precautions required by the building surveyor
- the final inspection on completion of the swimming pool or spa and related safety barrier.
Once building work is complete, the owner or builder must notify the building surveyor. The building surveyor will conduct a final inspection of the work and ensure it complies with relevant regulations and any other conditions on the building permit. They may request evidence of testing or ask for tests to be conducted to ensure that the work meets the requirements.
Site safety during installation
Precautions during construction
The building surveyor should specify any precautions the owner or builder must take during construction. This may include protection of adjoining properties, members of the public and anyone occupying the site during the construction of the pool.
This is especially important for excavation work where reduced soil stability, steep drops and groundwater in the bottom of the pit are all potential hazards. The building surveyor can issue a direction to the builder or owner to make a work site safe.
During construction, if the new pool is filled with water more than 300 mm (30 cm) deep, it must be guarded with a temporary safety barrier. A temporary barrier should be installed when a pool is not self-draining and could collect rainwater during construction. This is especially important if the site is occupied during construction.
No pool or spa should be filled until the building surveyor has completed their final inspection.
The responsibility for maintaining temporary barriers depends on the circumstances:
- Property owner not living on site – when the builder responsible for the work has vacant possession (where nobody is living on the site), they must maintain the temporary pool barrier.
- Property owner is living on site – if anyone is living at the property during the construction work, the pool builder is responsible for maintaining the temporary pool barrier while they’re on site. The occupant may be responsible for maintaining the temporary barrier when the builder isn’t on the site, depending on responsibilities set out in the building contract.
- Property owner is an owner-builder engaging contractors for pool construction – the owner-builder is responsible for the work and site safety. They must ensure that the temporary barrier is installed and maintained.
Swimming pool and spa registration
On 1 December 2019, laws to improve swimming pool and spa safety will come into effect, introducing new inspection, maintenance and compliance requirements for property owners.
As part of the changes, you’ll be required to register your swimming pool and/or spa with your local council.
If you own a pool or spa, including portable or relocatable swimming pools, we encourage you to check the compliance of the barrier now by following our self-assessment checklists above.
The VBA is no longer accepting submissions for its voluntary swimming pool and spa register. Please contact your local council to enquire about registering your pool and/or spa.