Safety Around Private Swimming Pools

PowerPlastics Pool Covers, the oldest pool cover company in SA, says that it is important for architects to be aware of and to follow the recommended standards of safety for all privately-owned swimming pools.

A cover that is deemed safe when, among other requirements, it has a tensioning system and a weight tolerance of 220kg.

While trends come and go with seasons, there are often compliance and legislative issues sitting in the background that have to dovetail with such trends. Leaders guiding the sectors have a responsibility to ensure that client choices remain within the bounds of Best Practice and, in some cases, the law. When it comes to swimming pool trends, the critical compliance issue is pool safety which is now guided by the SABS, according to PowerPlastics Pool Covers, the oldest pool cover company in SA.

Recently (December 2018) the SABS 10134 Standard – Safety around Private Swimming Pools – was upgraded to reflect current safety approaches and was accepted via a public participation process into SABS, which effectively means that there are now recommended standards of safety for all privately-owned swimming pools. These recommendations are important for architects to be aware of and to follow.

However, SABS10134 is not the law and needs to be read in conjunction with the National Building Regulations or SANS10400D. This deals with the public access to pools and the absolute laws in terms of making pools safe to the public. So there are a couple of aspects to this legislation, public access and then once the front door is open, the actual safety around a pool.

“As an industry leader, we would like to ensure that pool designs are safe not only for children but for pets too. The South African legal system does hold the homeowner liable in terms of criminal law should it be proven that they have negligently failed to prevent a child drowning in a pool that they own. This side of the law has not really been tested as it is such a terrible tragedy and too terrible to contemplate but prosecution can take place,” says Caryn Formby of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.

When one talks about safety around the pool, it is about layers of safety. Layers in terms of public access and layers in terms of access once on the property.

SANS 10400D deals with Public access to one’s pool. Here, the onus is on the building inspector to only approve homes that comply with walls and fences of a certain height to ensure that a child wandering in off the street cannot drown in the pool. This needs to be the first barrier to entry. As a judgement criteria, it is safer and also more permanent than any other technique.

Once on the property, once again a fence can be used but a fence or wall is not always the safest technique. This is where SABS10134 comes in. The homeowner is now not working for public safety but safety for people on the property. Here, a fence, net or safety cover is recommended in terms of SABS10134.

On all pools, three layers of safety are recommended. The first is a wall or fence, the second is a net or safety cover and the third is adult supervision. Once the pool is open for swimming there needs to be adult supervision and children need to be taught to swim from a young age where there is a pool on the property.

“Given these standards and building regulations, as designers and specifiers it is our responsibility to ensure pools are safe at the time of building and also during their use thereafter. Pools also need to be safe once the home is sold and resold. It is for this reason that SABS10134 is important as it introduces further techniques to make the pool safe. The particular layout of the property, the shape of the pool and the lifestyle of the client need to all be taken into account together with the recommendations in SABS10134,” says Formby.

When specifying fences and walls SABS1390 is the important document.

There are however pool covers and there are Safety Covers. Safety Covers also need a SABS COC in order to ensure that they conform to the required standard. Likewise, the installation team needs to be accredited in order to install a safety cover.

“To ascertain whether a cover is safe, always ask the pool cover supplier for a certificate of conformance. If it is not forthcoming, the company has probably not applied their mind sufficiently to make sure that every installation is 100 percent safe. A cover that is deemed safe is one that prohibits any object measuring 114mm in diameter from accessing the water / slipping under the cover; the fastenings / securing points must not be workable by a small child; it must have a tensioning system and a weight tolerance of 220kg; and after rainfall or if garden sprinklers are used, the water must drain off unaided and the cover must dry within 5 minutes.

“These new recommendations will really assist South Africa’s architectural and design fraternity to clarify their approach to safety around pools. I urge the industry to not just follow the trends but to follow the trends in a compliant manner and observe any formal parameters. This is what will make pools safe and save lives now and in the future,” concludes Formby.

PowerPlastics Pool Covers is SA’s oldest pool cover manufacturer, with a national supply network and branches in Cape Town and Gauteng, as well as an e-commerce ordering system. The full range includes safety, GeoBubble thermal covers and fully automatic slatted covers for the top end of the market. The company is also the founder of TopStep, the home of pool safety, an online educational resource for the industry, packed with tips on how to prevent drownings and tools for pool safety.

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