All pools built in Tasmania should be subject to mandatory fencing laws, a coroner has said.
Coroner Simon Cooper made the recommendation as part of his findings into the 2014 drowning of a four-year-old Launceston boy in his grandparents’ backyard pool.
The pool, which was built 10 years before pool fencing laws were introduced in Tasmania in 1994, had a solar dome cover.
The coroner found that the boy, referred to by the coroner as J, had fallen though the cover after climbing to the top of it.
The boy’s grandparents realised he was missing 45 minutes after he told them he was going outside to play.
One of the neighbours called in to search for him spotted a tear in the pool’s padlocked cover.
The child was found in the seven-metre pool but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
“I find that [the boy] climbed to the top of the pool cover and fell through it into the pool where he drowned,” coroner cooper said.
Coroner Cooper said he was an active, adventurous and inquisitive little boy who loved to play outdoors and climb.
“[He] did not, however, like the water and was unable to swim,” he said.
The hole in the cover was about 40 centimetres in diameter.
“That hole is more than big enough for J to have fallen through,” he said.
The coroner said the boy would still be alive if the pool had been fenced.
“There is little doubt in my mind that had this pool been fenced then [the boy] would not have drowned in the circumstances in which he did,” he said.
Australian Standard pool fencing laws were introduced to Tasmania in 1994 but only applied to pools built after that date.
Coroner Cooper was critical of safety requirements, saying they had “not altered in 20 years” and noted a lack of fencing inspections.
“The evidence is that no inspections are carried out at all by any authority of any pool for safety or any other reason in Tasmania whether a pool was installed before or after 2 November 1994,” he said.
“The fact that there are no statutory or regulatory requirements to fence any pool constructed or installed before 2 November 1994 is not a position that should, in my view, be allowed to continue.”
He recommended that immediate steps be taken to enact a regulatory regime to ensure all domestic pools complied with the Australian Standard.
The coroner warned that the solar dome was not a safety device and was not a substitute for a properly constructed safety fence.