When assessing gaps between the bottom of a barrier and the finished ground level, a pool safety inspector (PSI) must ensure that the finished ground is solid and unlikely to be disturbed by a young child. The Pool Safety Council (PSC) recently considered a case where a pool safety certificate was given for a pool with gaps exceeding 100 millimetres between the bottom of the barrier and the finished ground level, in breach of section 2.4 of Australian Standard 1926.1-2007 (AS1926.1). The aluminium barrier was located over a bed of pebbles parallel to the pool coping. The gap exceeding 100 millimetres was located between the pebbles and the lower part of the aluminium fencing panel. While the inspector added more pebbles to the existing bed of pebbles to reduce the gap, this is not considered an acceptable solution.
The purpose of section 2.4 of AS 1926.1 is to prevent a young child from squeezing under a fence barrier and gaining access to the pool area. When applying this section, inspectors should consider this intention. Section 2.4 of AS 1926.1 includes a note stating that “the surrounding area of the pool shall be stable and remain intact at all times. Loose sand is not acceptable”. This note can be applied to all loose surfaces, including leaf or garden mulch, pine bark, loose pebbles, loose soil or decorative gravel or similar moveable materials.
A young child can easily remove such materials to create a gap exceeding 100 millimetres and for this reason, they are generally not considered a stable surface that will remain intact. This nonconformity can be rectified by affixing some form of appropriate ‘hard standing material’ under the pool fence, for example concrete (mower/whipper snipper type) edge, pavers laid on concrete bed, rocks cemented firmly into place, decorative pebbles set into concrete beam. It could also be achieved by a timber sleeper, a Koppers log or timber board secured with pins, stakes or hoops that are secured to prevent removal by a child. However, depending on the configuration of the barrier, pool and surrounding structures, moveable materials may be acceptable in some instances. For example, if the moveable material is located in a narrow channel for decorative purposes it may be acceptable if the gap diagonally is less than 100 millimetres.