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With the arrival of spring and temperatures warming up, it won’t be long before families and children living in housing estates and complexes start heading for the communal pools to cool down.

With drowning being the second leading cause of accidental death and around 600 children drowning in South Africa each year, pool safety is of paramount importance and should be prioritised by estate management teams.

National regulations governing pools

Communal swimming pools in complexes and estates, whether managed by a body corporate or a homeowner’s association, are considered to be private swimming pools as they are for the specific use of their residents only.

In South Africa, the safety of private pools is regulated by various bodies including the South African Bureau of Standards, municipal bylaws, national building regulations, and the Prescribed Management Rules of the Sectional Titles Act.

In summary, the SABS requires that private swimming pools, holding more than 30 cm of water, should be surrounded by a child-proof fence and also fitted with a safety net or a solid safety cover by an accredited provider. Furthermore, they require that access to private pools should be through a lockable, self-closing, or self-latching gate that is at least 1.2 metres high.

While some municipal bylaws may even provide for stricter safety measures regarding private swimming pools, the Sectional Titles Act prescribes that trustees must take all reasonable steps to insure the owners and the trustees against liability in respect of death, bodily injury or illness on common property.

The National Building Regulations require that an owner of any site that contains a swimming pool must ensure that access to the swimming pool is controlled. Any owner who fails to comply with this requirement shall be guilty of an offense.

What more can estates do?

Bearing the above regulations in mind, pool fences and secure access control must be put in place first and these must be in good working order at all times.

Additional measures that can be taken include posting safety rules and pool regulations clearly in visible locations and installing proper safety equipment, including lifeguard chairs, lifebuoys, and first-aid kits. When it comes to children specifically, adults must be required to accompany and supervise children at the pool.

During peak seasons, larger estates should consider hiring qualified lifeguards or pool attendants who are trained in CPR and first aid and could even consider implementing a maximum capacity limit to prevent overcrowding.

Communicate with residents

Beyond safety measures, it is also important to ensure that residents are clear on the rules and regulations. To ensure compliance with approved rules, trustees and HOAs must ensure that all residents have copies of the rules and that they acknowledge receipt of the rules when moving in.

Establish clear operating hours for the pool and strictly enforce them, implement rules that cover no diving in shallow areas, no glass being used around the pool, no drinking of alcohol and no running around the pool. Regular security checks around the pool are also important so that these can be enforced if necessary.

Be prepared

Establish and communicate clear emergency procedures for incidents such as accidents, injuries, or pool closures. Ensure that all staff and residents are aware of these procedures. Conduct drills and exercises to ensure staff are prepared for emergencies.

And lastly, consult with legal experts to understand and comply with local regulations and liability insurance requirements.

By following these best practices, estate management teams can create a safe, clean, and enjoyable swimming pool environment for residents while minimizing potential risks and liabilities. Regular maintenance, clear communication, and a commitment to safety are essential for the successful operation of a community swimming pool.

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