In this section
A swimming pool can provide children hours of entertainment, and also provides a great opportunity for exercise.
However, drowning is the third most common cause of death for Australian children aged one to 14. Children can drown in as little as 20 seconds – one- and two-year-old children are particularly at risk.
Teaching children how to swim and play safely in water is very important, as is having adult supervision at all times.
Supervision is vital in preventing childhood drownings or near-drownings. By learning and enforcing the following four simple safety rules, you can help keep children safe around water.
Rule 1: Constant active supervision
Never take your eyes off children in, on or around water.
Rule 2: Restrict access to water
It is illegal for pools and spas not to be fenced off.
Rule 3: Learn first aid and resuscitation
Rule 4: Increase water awareness
Read more about these water rules in our fact sheet on
Safety: In and around water.
Set rules for use of your pool at home. Make sure your children understand how serious the rules are.
Every private swimming pool or spa with a water depth of more than 300 mm must have a childproof safety barrier. Barriers are required for:
You will need a building permit before installing a barrier.
Even at a supervised public pool, never take your eyes off children. Toddlers, in particular, have a natural attraction to water, and their sense of danger is under-developed. A lack of direct supervision by a parent or carer is believed to be a contributing factor in more than two-thirds of
drowning deaths at public pools.
Is it safe for my children to play with pool toys?
Pool toys can include any floatation devices, pool noodles, rings, kickboards and inflatable toys such as rafts. Pool toys are OK to use, but children still need to be actively supervised in the water, even if the child is being supported by a floatation device to keep them afloat in water.
Always ensure toys comply with Australian standards, and that the toy is suitable for your child's age and weight.
All pool toys should be put away (and deflated if appropriate) after use so that they don’t attract attention or tempt children into the pool area.
We’re looking at buying a house with a pool, but it is not
fenced off. What are the legal requirements for older swimming pools?
Check with your state or territory’s pool fencing legislation for current fencing requirements. In Victoria, according to the
Victorian Building Authority (VBA), swimming pools or spas constructed prior to 8 April 1991 or on or between April 1991 to 1 May 2010 have a slightly different set of regulations that apply. All outdoor swimming pools and spas built after 1 May
2010 must not have direct access to the pool area via a door from a building.
If you are replacing an existing safety barrier for a swimming pool or spa built before 1 May 2010, you will need to comply with the current regulations.
It is the pool owner's responsibility to ensure their pool or spa barrier is compliant before selling or leasing their property, but there are differences in how this is regulated in each state and territory.
Speak to a licenced builder or your local building authority for information specific to your situation.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Community Information in consultation with Life Saving Victoria. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed October 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit