Maintaining your pool barrier can save lives

Published on 17 December 2020

Image of child holding onto pool fence looking through the fence towards the pool.

Cessnock City Council is strongly encouraging swimming pool owners to check and maintain their pool barrier, specifically self-closing gates and latches in response to a recent Victorian Coronial Inquest into the death of a 3 year old child.

The Coroner’s Investigator noted that while the pool and barrier appeared to have been originally constructed to the required standards in 2007, over the years, weathering and lack of maintenance resulted in the pool gate failing to self-close and latch.  The child opened the back door of the house while his mother was taking an afternoon nap. The child accessed the pool enclosure through the unlatched gate and sadly drowned.

Council’s Acting Director of Planning and Environment Martin Johnson said it is always tragic to learn of incidents like this where a child’s death may have been prevented by the simple routine maintenance of a pool barrier. 

“I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of having a compliant pool barrier around every swimming pool but to especially ensure the gate is always self-closing and self-latching.”

Australian Standards require pool gates to be fitted with a self-closing device that will close the gate from any position and without needing to be physically closed. The gate must also automatically latch closed and unable to be opened again without operating the manual release of the latch.

“While the pool owner has the responsibility to maintain their pool barrier at all times, Council encourages pool owners to obtain a Certificate of Compliance which involves an inspection of the barrier by trained and qualified Council staff.”      

The Coroner’s Inquest revealed the pool gate was able to close and latch when swung, but when let go without force, the gate failed to self-close and self-latch.  What’s significant in this instance is the hinge and latch appeared to have deteriorated through lack of use as opposed to overuse or wear and tear.

“Yes, there is no substitute for supervision, but this tragedy is a reminder that maintaining your pool barrier can save lives” concluded Mr Johnson. 

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