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Tips for a Safer Home - Advice from the Building Commission

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Tips for a Safer Home - Advice from the Building Commission

Sometimes lack of maintenance and or a failure to meet regulatory requirements puts the adage “safe as houses” to the test.

Statistics tell us the most common place for young children to be injured is in the home. Yet there are many regulations that improve home safety. These include safety switches, smoke detectors, and compulsory fencing of swimming pools and spas.

While these regulations do make the home environment safer, safety also relies heavily on the homeowner. If you leave the pool gate propped open, for example, a child can drown. Similarly, if you do not replace your smoke alarm battery on a regular basis, it will not work if there’s a fire.

Home maintenance and owner vigilance is essential to safety in the home.

With the forecast of a long hot summer, this particularly applies to water safety and balcony maintenance.

It is the responsibility of swimming pool and spa owners to not just install but maintain and use safety barriers wisely: ensure no tree branches, pool pumps, pot plants or other item which could be used to climb over the barrier are within a 1.2 metre radius of the gate or fence; remember when children are near water, adult supervision is essential; ensure all gates and doors providing access to a pool or a spa have self-closing and self-latching devices in good working order.

It is an offence to prop open any gate or door, providing access to a pool or spa and fines apply for non-compliance.

Balcony and decking maintenance is another homeowner responsibility and not just around the pool. As home balconies and decks are highly used over the summer, now is a good time to review their safety.

Six per cent of Australian homes have a timber balcony or deck and around two per cent of these are unsafe. Most at-risk are houses built between 1970 and 1990, when balcony development increased and there was some use of inappropriate timber and construction without building approval. When balconies of this type become heavily loaded, such as during a party, there is an increased risk of collapse.

There are some risk factors that you can check: look for pooling of water on the balcony surface; check timber posts, beams and flooring joists for rot; inspect brackets and bolts for signs of rust; ensure handrails and balustrades are not rotted, corroded, loose or unstable.

Remember that if you are in doubt about the safety of your balcony or your swimming pool fencing to contact a building surveyor or visit For copies of brochures on swimming pool or balcony safety contact the Building Commission on (03) 9285 6400.

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