Words: Anne Schauffer

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) is about to tighten the current regulations governing the safe operation of swimming pools even further, says Marvin Odendaal of Phatshoane Henney Attorneys. Some municipalities of course have additional, more stringent bylaws, and it’s the residents’ responsibility to comply with those.

Existing regulations

According to Odendaal current regulations include:

  • A 1,2m (measured from ground level) wall or fence and any such gate therein. It must not contain an opening that allows a 100mm diameter ball to pass through it. This fence must be provided by the owner of the site with the swimming pool, so no person can have access to it from any street, public place or adjoining site, other than:
    • through a self-latching gate which can be locked.
    • through a building where such building forms part of such a wall or fence.
  • A wall or fence shall be provided in any interconnected complex which contains a swimming pool or bath to ensure no person can have access to such from any street, public place or anywhere within the complex other than through a self-closing, self-latching gate with provision for locking in such wall or fence.
  • The constructional requirements of any steel fence or gate must comply with the requirements in SANS 1390.

Proposed additional legislation

In terms of the latest standards, additional measures such as safety nets or covers are required. “They must be child-proof, professionally installed (no DIY) and be able to safely carry the weight of an adult. A cover is disqualified if it allows rainwater to pool for more than five minutes, or if a child can unfasten it. It must require keys, a combination lock or ‘special tools, devices, or inaccessible locations’ to remove. For larger swimming pools, a net or cover must have a carrying weight of at least 220kg to ‘permit a rescue’ operation while holding up one child and two adults. For smaller pools – less than 2,4m at its widest point – the weight requirement is 125kg, for one adult and child,” Odendaal elaborates.

“Other changes include a requirement for self-closing gates in fences or walls around swimming pools, and a new obligation on renters or other non-owners to keep any unsafe pools completely empty. It’s the responsibility of the pool owner to ensure it has both a fence or wall and a net or cover – but any occupier of a property ‘shall not allow water in an unprotected swimming pool’. Occupiers are also responsible for ensuring that some sort of pole – brush or a leaf scoop – is available near any pool ‘to assist a distressed person in the water’, and to regularly inspect a pool enclosure for damage,” he says.

“The standard requires walls or fences to be at least 1,2m high, to be sunk into the ground at least 50cm deep, to be very difficult for children to climb, and with gates difficult for children to open.”

What constitutes negligence?

Part D4 of the National Building Regulations requires that owners ensure controlled access to their swimming pools. “Any owner who fails to comply with this, is guilty of an offence,” continues Odendaal. “Additionally, a homeowner can also be sued for negligence should someone drown in their pool, depending on whether negligence was present. A pool that doesn’t meet the required safety standards or where those measures are not effective, can provide the necessary grounds for showing negligence on the part of the owner.

“It’s important that pool owners ensure that the safety measures in place are adhered to. Negligence can still exist where reasonable efforts are not taken to ensure that the safety measures are effective, and you, as the owner, are responsible for making sure no unfortunate incident happens at your pool,” he concludes.