Qualified & Registered Building Inspector with VBA


Pool Regulations V's Spa Regulations

In Victoria, compliance for swimming pools and spas is mandated by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). The regulations are enforced to reduce the risk of drownings, especially among children under five.

Importance of Compliance for Pools and Spas

- Safety Statistics: From 2000-2019, 27 children under five drowned in private swimming pools in Victoria.
- Legal Framework: The Building Regulations 2018 and the Building Act 1993 outline the safety requirements for pools and spas in Victoria.
- Penalties: Non-compliance can result in fines up to $1,652.20 or court-imposed penalties.

Purpose of Compliance Certificates

- Verification: Certificates confirm that pools and spas meet the safety standards set by the VBA.
- Legal Requirement: All pools and spas in Victoria must have a compliance certificate.
- Renewal: Certificates are not indefinite and must be renewed periodically to ensure ongoing compliance.

What is Pool Compliance?

Definition: Pool compliance refers to the adherence of swimming pools to the safety standards and regulations set by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) under the Building Regulations 2018 and the Building Act 1993.
Purpose: The primary purpose of pool compliance is to ensure the safety of pool users, particularly to reduce the risk of drownings and injuries. It mandates specific requirements concerning barriers, pool access, and safety equipment.

Significance of Safety Regulations for Pools:

- Drowning Prevention: Given the high risk of drownings, especially among children under five, safety regulations are crucial. Barriers and fences, for instance, are required to be of a certain height and must be free from gaps that can allow children to pass through.
- Legal Accountability: Pool owners in Victoria are legally obligated to ensure their pools meet compliance standards. Failure to do so can result in penalties, including fines and legal actions.
- Public Safety: Beyond the private setting, public pools also need to adhere to these regulations, ensuring the safety of the broader community.

Key Differences Between Pool and Spa Compliance

Size and Capacity

The size and capacity of a pool or spa play a significant role in determining the specific compliance requirements in Victoria:

- Barrier Requirements:
- Pools: For pools with a depth of more than 300mm, a safety barrier is mandatory. This barrier must be at least 1.2 meters high and should not have gaps of more than 100mm.
- Water Quality and Filtration:
- Pools: Larger pools require more complex filtration systems to ensure water quality. The frequency of water testing might also increase with the size and capacity of the pool.
- Spas: Given the smaller volume of water and higher temperatures in spas, they often require different water treatment chemicals and more frequent water quality checks.
- Safety Signage:
- Pools: Larger public pools in Victoria might have specific requirements for safety signage, indicating pool depth, no diving zones, and other safety-related information.
- Spas: Signage for spas often focuses on temperature warnings, time limits for usage, and cautionary notes about using the spa under the influence of alcohol or medication.
- Emergency Equipment:
- Pools: Larger pools, especially public ones, may have requirements for life-saving equipment to be available, such as life rings or reaching poles.
- Spas: Given their smaller size, spas might not have the same equipment requirements, but they still need accessible emergency shut-off switches.

In essence, while there are overarching safety regulations that both pools and spas must adhere to, the specific requirements can vary based on their size and capacity.

Barrier Requirements

- For Pools:
- Pools with a depth of more than 300mm must have a safety barrier.
- The barrier should be at least 1.2 meters high.
- Gaps in barriers should not exceed 100mm to prevent children from squeezing through.
- Gates in the barrier must swing outward, away from the pool, and be self-closing and self-latching.
- The latch for the gate must be at least 1.5 meters above ground level or be shielded to make it inaccessible to small children.
- For Spas:
- Spas require either a safety barrier similar to pools or a lockable, child-resistant lid or cover when not in use.
- If using barriers, the same height and gap requirements as pools apply.

Water Quality and Filtration

- For Pools:
- Pools must maintain a balanced pH level, typically between 7.2 and 7.8.
- Chlorine levels should be maintained between 1-3 ppm.
- Filtration systems must be operational for adequate hours to ensure water circulation and cleanliness.
- Regular testing and treatment are essential to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and algae.
- For Spas:
- Due to higher temperatures, spas are more prone to bacterial growth. Therefore, more frequent water testing and treatment are necessary.
- The recommended pH level remains similar to pools, between 7.2 and 7.8.
- Chlorine levels in spas should be slightly higher, typically between 2-4 ppm.
- Given the smaller volume of water, spas often require faster filtration cycles.

Safety Equipment

- For Pools:
- Life-saving equipment, such as life rings or reaching poles, must be available, especially for larger or public pools.
- Non-slip surfaces around the pool area to prevent falls.
- Clear signage indicating pool depth, no diving zones, and other safety-related information.
- Emergency shut-off switches for pool pumps and filtration systems.
- For Spas:
- Accessible emergency shut-off switches to halt all spa functions immediately.
- Non-slip surfaces around the spa area.
- Temperature warnings and time limit signage to prevent overheating and dehydration.
- While life-saving equipment like life rings might not be mandatory for spas, having them nearby is recommended for safety.

Drainage and Suction

- For Pools:
- Pool drains must have covers that are compliant with Australian standards to prevent entrapment.
- There should be multiple drains to reduce suction pressure. If only one drain is present, it should be equipped with an anti-entrapment system.
- Drain systems should be regularly inspected to ensure they are free from debris and functioning correctly.
- For Spas:
- Spas also require compliant drain covers to prevent entrapment.
- Due to the smaller size and higher water flow rates in spas, they are more prone to suction entrapment. Anti-entrapment systems or vacuum release systems are essential.
- Regular checks of the spa's suction systems are crucial to ensure safety.

Signage and Warnings

- For Pools:
- Depth markers indicating shallow and deep ends.
- "No Diving" signs for areas that are not deep enough for diving.
- Emergency procedure signs, including CPR instructions.
- Rules for pool usage, such as no running or rough play.
- For Spas:
- Temperature warnings to alert users of hot water.
- Time limit signage indicating safe durations for spa use.
- Instructions on the proper use of spa controls.
- Emergency shut-off switch location.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

- For Pools:
- In Victoria, once a pool barrier is deemed compliant, it does not require regular mandatory inspections. However, it's the responsibility of the pool owner to maintain the barrier's compliance.
- Local councils may conduct random inspections, especially if there are reports or concerns about a particular pool's safety.
- For Spas:
- Similar to pools, once a spa barrier or cover is deemed compliant, regular mandatory inspections are not required. The onus is on the spa owner to ensure ongoing compliance.
- As with pools, local councils can conduct inspections based on reports or safety concerns.

For both pools and spas, it's recommended to have periodic professional inspections to ensure all safety systems are functioning correctly and the facility remains compliant with Victorian regulations.

The Process of Obtaining a Pool Compliance Certificate


- Initial Steps:
- Review the Victorian Building Authority's (VBA) guidelines and checklist for pool and spa safety barriers.
- Ensure the pool/spa barrier is at least 1.2 meters high with no gaps exceeding 100mm.
- Check that gates swing outward, are self-closing, and have a self-latching mechanism.
- Ensure the pool/spa area is free from climbable objects near the barrier.

Hiring a Professional

- Importance of a Licensed Inspector:
- A licensed inspector is trained to identify compliance issues that might be overlooked by pool/spa owners.
- They are updated on the latest regulations and standards set by the VBA.
- During the Inspection:
- The inspector will assess the safety barriers, gates, latches, and the surrounding area.
- They will check the pool/spa's drainage and suction systems.
- Water quality and filtration systems will be evaluated.
- The inspector may provide immediate feedback or send a detailed report after the inspection.

Addressing Non-Compliance Issues

- Common Issues:
- Non-compliant barriers or gates.
- Inadequate signage or missing safety equipment.
- Faulty drainage or suction systems.
- Poor water quality or ineffective filtration systems.
- Rectification Steps:
- Based on the inspector's report, address each non-compliance issue systematically.
- For structural changes, such as modifying barriers, consider hiring professionals to ensure compliance.
- Re-test water quality if it was found lacking and adjust treatment processes as needed.

Receiving the Certificate

- Post-Compliance:
- Once all issues are addressed and the pool/spa meets the VBA's standards, the inspector can issue a Pool Compliance Certificate.
- This certificate is a legal document that verifies the pool/spa's adherence to safety regulations.
- Validity and Renewal:
- In Victoria, the Pool Compliance Certificate does not have a set expiry date. However, it's the owner's responsibility to maintain ongoing compliance.
- It's recommended to have periodic inspections, especially after significant modifications to the pool/spa or its surroundings, to ensure continued compliance.


Understanding the nuances between pool and spa compliance is not just a matter of legal adherence but is pivotal for ensuring the safety of users. While both pools and spas serve recreational purposes, their distinct features and functionalities necessitate different safety measures. Overlooking these differences can lead to non-compliance and, more critically, potential hazards.
Regular checks and maintenance go beyond obtaining a compliance certificate. They are proactive measures to ensure that the safety standards are consistently met. As pool and spa environments change over time, with wear and tear, weather conditions, and usage, it's essential to stay vigilant. By doing so, owners not only uphold the safety of their families and guests but also contribute to the broader community's well-being.

In conclusion, while compliance might seem like a bureaucratic step, its essence lies in safeguarding lives. Recognizing the differences between pool and spa compliance and committing to regular maintenance are fundamental steps in this direction.