Some people think Australia is a bit of a nanny state. Sometimes, I’m inclined to agree.
The other weekend a couple of friends of mine went to an outdoor music festival. One of them took an umbrella with her. Very wise, when it rains here, it really pours!
Except security made her throw it in the bin before they allowed her in. Apparently, it could have been used as a weapon.
How mad is that?
Probably not as mad as our swimming pool fence laws here in Queensland. Remember, each state in Australia can, for some things, make their own laws. A while back, Queensland decided to come up with tougher swimming pool fence laws. In doing so, I believe Queensland now has the strictest pool fence laws in the whole wide world.
A little background.
These pool fence changes in Queensland have come about due to campaigning by the parents of a two-year-old little girl, Hannah Plint, who drowned in her swimming pool in October 2007.
The pool was fenced and did have a safety gate. The little girl, who had been left unattended briefly, picked up a plastic chair and moved it to the gate before standing on it so she could reach the latch.
It’s a very, very sad story.
But the irony is that all these new laws will not prevent the same thing from happening again. Nowhere does the law say you must bolt down every movable object in the garden; I have read the entire 39 page PDF regarding the rules and also searched the document for ‘furniture’, ‘chair’ and ‘movable’.
Queensland now has an army of Pool Fence Inspectors charging around $250 to dish out certificates. I paid $99 to one of them the other week so that he could advise me on how to comply as I set about the task of replacing my old pool fence.
The reason I sought his advice is because I want to use my 3 metre high sandstone boulder wall as pool fence across the back…..
Now, do bear in mind that these laws are in place to protect children five years and younger.
Anyway, the problem is that our toddler may be an experienced rock climber. Any gap of 10 mm or more, where the slope is less than 60°, is regarded as a step hold. So, to prevent our mountaineer from climbing up the wall from the non-pool side and down it again on the other side, I need to construct a non-scalable fence at a right angle to my boulder wall of 2.4 metres in height and 1.2 metres wide.
Where this non-scalable wall does join the boulder wall, there can be no gaps greater than 10 mm wide in case our toddler can squeeze his little toes into that gap and again scale the 2.4 metre high structure.
Alternatively, I could attach a piece of Perspex flat up against the boulder wall of 2.4 metres in height and 900 mm wide.
If I don’t like either of those ideas, I could always fill in all those gaps between the boulders with cement, ensuring that I observe the 10 mm/60° rule.
However, as my wall gets lower and lower further to the left, like this….
… there is a big concern that our little nipper may start climbing the wall from its low point and walk all the way round until he is above the pool area and then simply climb down the wall into the pool area.
To overcome this, I need to construct 1 metre wide 60° angled ‘roof’ that overhangs the wall by 200 mm, so that any attempt to cross it by our young child would result in him sliding down the roof and falling 3 metres to the floor.
But, and this is the important thing, he would land outside of the pool area. The corners of this roof should be blocked off to prevent him from crawling under it.
There are other challenges I need to overcome before my fence meets the new requirements. My pool pump, which is outside of the pool area…
Oh, and if next door had a tree that was within 900 mm of my fence, I’d need to ask them to chop it down. Otherwise, as Murphy’s Law dictates, a toddler visiting next door’s house will almost certainly climb the tree, stretch across, get over the 1.8 metre high fence and therefore gain access to my pool.
It’s crazy, and I’m not the only one to think so.
There is an article about a man who is refusing to comply with these new regulations and last time I looked there were over 500 comments. Most are supporting his views. You can read the article here.
Our children are very precious and need to be protected. But remember, these new regulations would not have saved the life of Hannah Plint, and many people believe that pool fences give people a false sense of security.
Meanwhile, our local public swimming pool is allowed to operate on what I believe they call “low patronage mode”, which means no lifeguard is on duty.
There is no gate to prevent anyone from wandering in off the street to get to the pool.
The truth is, you can’t beat 1) never letting your young child out of your sight and 2) teaching them how to swim as soon as possible. These are the best ways we can protect our young children.
So I’m sorry, Queenslanders pool fence laws are an Australian bad thing.