Quebec is modifying the rules surrounding residential swimming pools in a bid to bolster water safety, the provincial government announced Thursday.
In a statement, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH) said the modifications were made in response to a recommendation made by several coroners in recent years in an effort to reduce the risk of drowning, especially of young children, who are most at-risk.
The most notable change is that the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Regulation, the main purpose of which is to control the access of young children to residential swimming pools, will now apply to all swimming pools, regardless of their date of installation.
Under the rules, swimming pools must be surrounded by an enclosure to restrict access, with specific guidelines as to what constitutes an enclosure.
Prior to the amendment, pools built before Nov. 1, 2010, had acquired rights and were exempt from the regulations.
Owners are being given until July 1, 2023 to make sure their installations are up to code.
The ministry says it is granting a two-year grace period because of the costs associated with possible upgrades like building enclosures around inground and semi-inground pools, for example.
After that, fines of up to $700 will apply for a first offence and up to $1,000 for subsequent offences.
For Adam Di Fulvio, president and CEO of the Montreal Institute of Swimming and the Canada Swim School, the change couldn’t come soon enough.
He believes the change will help prevent drownings and other water-related incidents due to the high number of pools “probably tens of thousands,” he said, that didn’t have to abide by safety regulations.
“This is something that a lot of aquatic associations have been pushing for,” he said. “It didn’t make sense that just because your pool was built before a certain dates that you didn’t have to comply to rules which could potentially save lives…in the long run, this definitely should make an impact.”
Tighter rules are also coming into play for anyone buying and installing new pools on July 1.
They include battening chain link fences with a mesh size of more than 30 mm and keeping any structure or equipment that could be used to climb over the wall of a swimming pool or enclosure one metre away.
Also, swimming pools equipped with a diving board must be installed in accordance with specific norms aimed at preventing cervical spinal cord injuries.
With summer around the corner, and COVID-19 restrictions still limiting travel and other leisure activities, the government announcement couldn’t be more timely.
“Backyard pool sales are up over 400 per cent this year alone, compared to pre-COVID times,” Di Fulvio said. “So definitely the government’s announcements, the tightening of rules for backyard pools, it has definitely come at the right time.”
Pool fencing companies say they are busier than ever, as clients are learning about the new requirements.
“Yesterday was like the first day that we really got hit by this, the phone has been ringing left and right. And new clients, there’s going to be a lot of new clients,” said Ian Simard of Pool Guard Québec.
Simard said he’ll no doubt have to hire more help in order to keep up with demand.
To ensure a safe summer, however, Di Fulvio urged people to remember the ABCs of pool safety:
- Always watch your kids at all times;
- Be able to swim;
- Checklist for backyard pools;
While the government has provided an updated checklist of requirements for backyard pools, DiFluvio said there might be some catching up to do when it comes to knowing how to swim.
“Over 80 per cent of kids that normally take swimming lessons have not in the past year because of the lack of access to swimming lessons due to COVID,” he said.
Nonetheless, Di Fulvio, said the changes are a step in the right direction and he’s hopeful water safety awareness will spread from backyard pools to other aquatic environments as well.
— With files from Global’s Gloria Henriquez