Safety around swimming pools in community schemes
It’s holiday time again, and as South Africans, we enjoy the good old braaivleis, sunny skies and swimming pools!
This year in particular, after being somewhat more regulated and cooped up, it is human to want to break free and enjoy some freedom. Given the financial hardships many are experiencing, more people will stay at home and utilise community scheme facilities, but many will travel locally to their holiday destinations and again, enjoy community scheme facilities in other areas.
Trustees beware. A toxic mix of unsupervised children, more than usually stressed adults, low levels of swimming pool safety measures, non-enforcement or relaxed attitude towards enforcement of swimming pool rules and, of course, alcohol and glass around common-use areas spells a high risk for disaster.
In the writer’s view, one of the most disastrous and saddest events that can happen is a child drowning, or even near-drowning with long term disability, especially where that drowning or that near-drowning could have been prevented.
Despite the trauma that the parents will experience, as well as the trustees and the community as a whole, added to the pain will be the long-term financial effects of liability which could have severe financial consequences on all owners.
Most community schemes will have liability cover, which is there to protect the body corporate against situations like these. However, this is always subject to the body corporate or HOA complying, as far as reasonably possible, with national building regulations and local bylaws, as well as taking reasonable steps to mitigate against such risks or losses. The body corporate or HOA should also be taking reasonable steps to enforce its own rules.
So what can trustees do?
- On the assumption that the scheme has appropriate rules in place for swimming pool use, make sure that these are properly displayed.
- Ensure that all owners and tenants have copies of these rules, particularly in respect of the supervision of children around the swimming pool.
- Make sure that the fences and gate of the swimming pool enclosure are all in good working order, particularly the gate’s self-closing mechanism. Check as often as possible.
- Ensure that the rules are being abided by – regular security checks around the pool are suggested.
- Obtain buy-in from residents – send out a notice about this aspect ahead of school holidays.
There are regulations pertaining to safety ‘in and around’ swimming pools that relate to private swimming pools. Swimming pools that are situated on the grounds of a sectional title or community living scheme are deemed ‘private’ as they are for the specific use of residents and invited guests only.
For the purpose of this article, we reference content from National Building Regulations (NBR) – SABS 0400-1990 Part D (Public Safety) DD4 and also SANS 10134:2008 ‘The safeness of private swimming pools’.
Here is a part-summary format of National Building Regulations (NBRs), as applies to swimming pools:
- ‘The owner of any site that has a swimming pool shall ensure by means of a wall or fence that no person can gain access to the pool from any street, public space or adjoining property other than through a self-closing and self-latching gate with provision for locking in such wall or fence; provided that where any building forms part of such wall, access may be through such building.’
- ‘The wall or fence and any such gate therein, shall not be less than 1.2m high from ground level and shall not contain any opening which will allow a ball measuring 100mm in diameter to pass through.’
Further safety guidelines for owners or occupiers in terms of South African National Standards (SANS) in summary as follows:
- Over and above NBR above, consider other protective devices that should be installed by reputable manufacturers/suppliers only.
- Ensure competent adult supervision at the swimming pool whenever the gate is not locked.
- Stipulate that children may not use the swimming pool during the absence of such competent adult supervision, unless under their own parental care.
- Prominently display complete emergency instructions (with relevant telephone numbers) and other related procedures near the swimming pool.
- Provide a suitable device with which a non-swimmer can pull a distressed child/person to safety, at close proximity to the swimming pool edge.
- Ensure that objects (e.g. deck chairs, wheelbarrows, etc.) onto which a child could climb so as to scale the enclosure are not left unattended in the vicinity of the swimming pool.
- Keep a regular check on the condition and operation of the swimming pool enclosure structures and mechanisms as per NBR above.
- Keep the swimming pool area free of obstructions and items or structures with sharp edges or projections that could cause injury to children.
Further recommendations as could/should be applied to rules governing the safety around a community use swimming pool, but not limited to, the following:
- No glass bottles or containers to be permitted in the swimming pool area.
- If the pool has a deep end, the deep end should be noted with a depth marker.
- No diving or ‘bomb-dropping’ permitted.
- No running allowed around the swimming pool edge.
In reading the regulations and guidelines, it becomes apparent that the purpose of these regulations and guidelines is to prevent the accidental drowning of vulnerable persons, particularly young children. Legislation seems to focus on young children, and it is alarming how many people will let their children go to the pool on common property without (adequate) supervision. Standard management rules or prescribed management rules do not even speak to swimming pool behaviour.
A new draft update from the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) published in the Government Gazette (July 2018) makes reference to every private swimming pool that can hold more than 30cm of water. In our opinion, this will then include any larger inflatable pools set up for home use, sometimes in exclusive use areas or more alarmingly, on open common areas.
According to the draft rules, these pools should be surrounded by a child-proof fence and should be fitted with a safety net or cover to prevent children from drowning. These rules are also subject to certain standards.
It is important that the person supervising any children swimming in the pool is capable and responsible. Will this person be able to confidently handle an emergency situation, and can they actually swim?
The reality is that drownings can happen quickly and quietly; it is therefore important for the person taking responsibility for supervising children to be vigilant and not distracted.
Trustees and managing agents who are involved with the management of common property are responsible for safety, the upkeep of the area and the enforcement of rules around common area swimming pools. Owners and residents must adhere to the rules.
Let’s all take extra care and be aware of this risk by taking a few sensible precautions.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Paddocks.
Article reference: Paddocks Press: Volume 15, Issue 12.
Article Date: 9 December 2020
Mike Addison is the director of Addsure – www.addsure.co.za – specialist sectional title insurance brokers.
This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.