Pool safety fences are required in a number of design scenarios, and for good reason. While swimming pools are a great place to exercise and have fun, they can also be dangerous – especially for pets, children and those with mobility issues.
According to reports from The National Water Safety Forum, 420 people in the UK died from accidents or natural causes in 2010 alone, many of whom were young children. As a result, The Local Government Association has called for swimmers and pool operators to take extra precautions around water safety.
Whether you operate a public swimming area or you’re lucky enough to have a pool at home, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your pool is safe. Pool safety fences will ensure that people can’t accidentally fall or access the water without authorisation.
Pool safety fences: what does the law say?
There is no official UK law that pertains to public or private swimming pools. However, the government states that pool operators must comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and abide by all appropriate regulations.
Therefore, if you operate a public swimming pool, it is your responsibility to protect the health and safety of your pool users and workers. You must do this by making a “suitable and sufficient” health and safety assessment of the area, known as a risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests the following health and safety management for public swimming pools:
Sections 71 and 72 of the fourth edition of Managing health and safety in swimming pools gives the following advice on pool access.
Pool operators must:
“71. Take effective measures to prevent unauthorised access to a pool intended to be out of use (for example after closing time or while under repair). Plant rooms, chemical stores and other restricted areas should be secured against unauthorised access.
- For open air pools, consider putting up security walls or fences and/ or installing intruder lighting and/or alarms. Motion sensitive lighting, security cameras and/or alarms can also be effective as a deterrent or as a way of ensuring you are alerted to an intruder or casualty.”
Access for disabled people
HSE recommends hoists and appropriate equipment to help disabled people and those in wheelchairs to access the pool.
Operators must make sure that:
“Staff are fully trained and competent in the use of the equipment; the capabilities of the individual are taken into consideration; the equipment is inspected and, if necessary, tested periodically by a competent person to ensure that the hoist can continue to safely lift loads up to its marked safe working load”
This guidance applies to all public swimming areas, including those in leisure and water parks, hotels, therapy centres, diving areas and places of education. It also includes rivers, lakes and other non-standard swimming facilities.
There are also requirements for first aid, safety information, signage and lifeguard supervision.
Planning permission and regulations
There are currently no building regulations for pool safety fences in the UK. However, you may require planning permission if you’re building a swimming area from scratch. You’ll need to consult your council’s local planning department to find out if there are any restrictions on your building activities.
Balustrade safety regulations also apply when building pool safety fences. This means that if the decking height of your pool is below 600mm your fencing will need to be taller than 900mm to prevent injuries from occurring. Similarly, if your decking is over 600mm, your fences will need to meet a minimum height of 1100mm.
How to make your swimming pool safer
If you want to make your swimming pool a safe place that people of all ages can enjoy, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Although the law may not stipulate that you need a pool safety fence, you may still decide to install one to minimise the risks.
While public swimming pools require a full risk assessment, you’ll need to use your common sense when it comes to home swimming areas. Your barriers should be high enough that a child could not climb over them. You might want to think about installing an alarm to alert you when someone enters the pool or consider a drowning detection system.
Whether you’re looking for a corporate or domestic safety fence, there are many different options available, including:
- Lockable gates
Self-closing, lockable gates are one solution for preventing unauthorised access. You may also wish to include a ramp for disabled access or an alarm system in case children attempt to climb over.
- Glass fencing
Installing glass fencing is a great way to ensure the safety of your pool area without impacting on the visibility. With glass, you’ll be able to see everything that’s happening in your pool, and the fencing won’t detract from your aesthetics.
Many people are concerned about installing glass pool safety fences in case they break or shatter, which is why we use two different types of safety glass. Our Toughened Safety Glass won’t shatter if impacted, while our Laminated Toughened Glass is made up of two panels of glass with an EVA plastic interlayer for extra strength.
- Vinyl fencing
Vinyl fencing is an affordable and easy-to-install option for home pool areas, but it is often not as reliable as glass or steel fencing in terms of longevity and maintenance. Vinyl posts are secured in concrete, which takes a day or so to harden, and repairs are often costly once the fencing is installed.
- Metal fencing
Metal balustrades and pool safety fences are affordable and low-maintenance. The most popular types of metal for safety fences are aluminium and wrought iron, both of which are highly weather-resistant. Aluminium also has the advantage of being resistant to rust.
- Wood fencing
Wood fencing comes in a variety of styles, and many people appreciate its classic aesthetic. Although wood fencing can be used to section off areas for privacy, it is not recommended as a safety barrier. Not only are posts and slats prone to rot and vulnerable to impact damage, they also require periodic upkeep which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Pool fencing components
As well as the material of your pool safety fences, you also need to think about the components that hold them together, such as the hinges, handrails and frames. At SHS, we use steel components with a satin finish as standard. Stainless steel not only looks sleek and polished, but it also has easy grip and germ-resistant properties. We also offer a mirror polish coating that is smoother, reflective and great at repelling salt and chemical particles from the pool water.
Which pool safety fence is right for you?
If you’re unsure whether you need a pool safety fence or you don’t know which type to choose, SHS is here to help. We’ll discuss your pool safety fencing options, before manufacturing and installing a completely bespoke solution to keep your pool users safe and make sure you remain compliant with current regulations. For more information, contact us today on 01922 743842.