Pool Safety - Liability
Many countries have introduced regulations on the subject of Pool Safety in backyard pools. Generally these laws specify a fence or other barrier to the water, with detailed specifications on height, self-closing gates, child-proof locks and catches, no-climb zones (within a certain distance of the fence): - and promising dire consequences if these regulations are not strictly adhered to.
For example; all pools in Queensland, Australia needed to be registered by 4 November 2011. There was no charge for registering a pool on the register. However failure to register a pool could incur a fine of up to A$2000. Then of course the local authority would come and inspect the pool and probably issue a fine for non-compliance.
Non-compliance - The maximum penalty that can be imposed by a (Queensland) court for pool safety offences is A$16,500 for individuals or A$82,500 for corporations. Looked at in one, slightly skewed, way - these fines just about qualify as a 'Tax on Stupid People'
The regulations are there for the safety and security of all people who might fall into your pool and drown, not just your family and guests, whether they have been invited to the property or not. Even someone who is robbing your house has a 'right' to this level of protection! It beggars belief but it's true. Uninvited guests might also include the 'naughty neighbour kids' who sneaks in for a crafty dip whilst you're out at the supermarket, door-to-door canvassers, etc.
In Spain there is no legal obligation to install safety barrier but there is a 'Normativa' that says (roughly) 'A pool must be protected by a 'malla' when not in use, for the purpose of prevention of drowning accidents'. 'Malla' can be translated as fence, mesh or net.
Many countries do not always physically inspect the pools - local authorities take the word of the person registering the pool, or they don't get round inspect to the property for months or even years - which leaves the system open to abuse. Some people will go to any lengths to avoid parting with money, or obeying 'Nanny-State Rules', designed for their 'own safety'. You just need to remember public resistance to compulsory wearing of car seat-belts, despite widespread evidence that seat-belts save lives, to see the truth of that one.
Also, of course, some well-meaning people who have misinterpreted the regulations, or have relied heavily on their own, largely imaginary, 'DIY' skills, will report that their pool is compliant with current laws when, in fact, it is not.
We once visited a pool where the owner proudly showed us his hand-made 'safety net', which he had made from garden string. I ask you, string!? The Chlorine in the pool was destroying the string even as we stood there, wondering how to tell him the bad news in a diplomatic way. If anyone had ever fallen on that net it would have snapped instantly, entangling and immobilizing the victim, with fatal consequences.
Any occurrence of an accident at your pool is likely to be investigated by local police and, if the pool does not comply with Safety Regulations, you are wide open to officially imposed fines and privately brought lawsuits. Whether your actions are guided by economics or conscience - installing adequate Pool Safety Barriers is a MUST-DO.
Consider this for a moment or two: - Having a Safety Barrier to guard your swimming pool is both a legal and a moral issue. If someone dies in your pool you can be sued for everything you own. You can be held financially responsible for both fatal and non-fatal accidents, and your insurance premiums are likely to be much higher after any accident - if you can get cover at all. There are specialist lawyers in places like California who chosen field of expertise is pool and spa accidents. I bet they don't work cheap!
However, financial costs and penalties are as nothing when compared to the knowledge that your pool was the cause of a terrible, predictable and avoidable accident. You would have to live with that responsibility and guilt for a long, long time.
So, you have a choice: -
Choice 1 Enjoy your pool, secure in the knowledge that it's safe. Comply, totally, with your local Pool Safety Regulations right now and pay a reasonable amount to have a safe pool - it's much cheaper than a funeral.
If you still can't afford it - have a few fundraiser parties among your extended family, friends and neighbours who will (surely?) be invited to come over to swim in your pool. This approach is to the benefit of everyone who uses the pool and is really achievable. Remember to hire a Lifeguard for the party - or get some Safety Training - you can learn Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation online for free.
You can also make the pool area, and the pump/filter/chemical areas, the safest places they can be. Then you can be sure that you've done everything possible to protect the lives of anyone who might be at risk. You'll probably even sleep better, I expect; I know I would.
Choice 2 Endure the aftermath of an accident in your pool. You can spend months or years fighting a lawsuit, then pay Legal Fees (these alone would probably be many times the cost of installing a Pool Safety Barrier), possibly lose everything you own in punitive damages . . . and perhaps even be imprisoned!
All very soon after an avoidable accident in your pool. Of course, none of the above events are guaranteed to happen - a child who falls in your unprotected pool may survive - but any of them could. . . .
Remember; the life that you save could be your child, your grand-child, your wife, your dog - or your own.
In a nutshell: Property owners have responsibility to ensure their pool is safe and secure. If the owner of a pool fails to take adequate measures to prevent unwanted or unsupervised individuals from gaining access to the pool, they can be held responsible if and when an accident occurs.
Note: - Avoid buying second-hand Safety Equipment and ensure that it really IS Safety Equipment when buying new items. If you don't have the ready cash you can buy the necessaries on finance from many suppliers and installers.
Ken Walker MyPoolGuru