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Expert tips for installing removable pool fence systems

Self-latching, self-closing gates, which can be locked by key, are the most important part of a removable pool fence system.

By Robert Bortoluzzi

Removable mesh pool fencing (RPF) has been used in residential backyards since the mid ’60s and was designed for the purpose of preventing swimming pool accidents (drowning)—primarily for children under the age of five, who, historically, are the most at risk. According to the Lifesaving Society Canada, backyard pools continue to be the number one setting where children under five years of age most often drown. For half of private pool fatalities for which information was available, there was either no gate (29 per cent) or the gate was neither self-closing nor self-latching (22 per cent).

What factors influence drowning risk?

Some of the main factors that affect drowning risk are: the lack of swimming ability, the lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, and the absence of close supervision while swimming. The major risk factors contributing to ‘why’ victims drowned remain consistent with those the Lifesaving Society has identified in the past. They include:

  • Victim unable to swim (34 per cent of all victims for whom swimming ability information was available);
  • Children under five years of age alone near water (61 per cent) often during a momentary absence/lapse of caregiver attention (53 per cent); and
  • Lack of barriers such as pool fencing, which prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without caregivers’ awareness.  A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning by 83 per cent compared to three-sided property-line fencing.
Layback Hole
‘Layback’ holes are extra holes in the pool deck on the inside or outside of the pool fence system that are provided as a means for the pool owner to open the fence to gain access or entry to the pool area.

Removable fencing gaining wider acceptance

Today, many products are available that are effective in the prevention of pool drowning. For many years, removable pool fencing, which comprises a series of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) vinyl mesh sections attached to vertical poles that are connected to one another to form a barrier around the pool. The sections are customizable, removable, and see-through and have a proven, safe track record throughout North America and abroad.

In fact, removable pool fencing has been a popular choice for homeowners in states such as Florida, Arizona, and California, while in Canada, four-sided pool fencing is not only gaining wider acceptance, but is also law in Quebec and the city of Toronto. (See Figure 1)

Safer Pool Fencing Legislation Chart

Municipality Four-sided fencing
City of Toronto, ON Bylaw #447-1 Required
City of Windsor, ON Bylaw #266-2004 *
City of Woodstock, ON Bylaw #722 *
City of Clarence-Rockland, ON Bylaw #2002-47 *
Municipality of Port Hope, ON Bylaw #31/2006
City of Peterborough, ON Bylaw #591-1991
City of Ottawa, ON Bylaw #2001-259
Town of Hawkesbury, ON Bylaw #33-95
Town of Dryden, ON Bylaw #1388-78, Chapter 234
City of Cornwall, ON Bylaw #061-1992 *
Township of Woolwich, ON Bylaw #52-2007 *
City of Burnaby, BC Pool Enclosure Bylaw
City of Nanaimo, BC Bylaw #5693
City of Vancouver, BC Vancouver Building Bylaw *
City of Prince George, BC Bylaw #5912
City of Victoria, BC Bylaw #93-112 *
Halifax Regional Municipality, NS Bylaw #S-700
Cape Breton Regional Municipality, NS Bylaw #S-2
Town of Bridgewater, NS Swimming Pool Bylaw Chapter 168
City of Corner Brook, NL Bylaw #Swimming Pool Regulations
City of St. John’s, NL Bylaw #1464
City of Charlottetown, PE Zoning and Development Bylaw
Town of Sussex, NB Bylaw #1350-04 *
* These bylaws do not specifically require four-sided pool fencing; however, depending on how bylaw enforcement officers interpret the bylaw, they may in application require four-sided fencing around private residential swimming pools. © Parachute—a national, charitable organization dedicated to preventing injuries and saving lives. (Updated June 2011)

Although many other jurisdictions have yet to pass four-sided pool fencing bylaws, the laws currently in place in every region shown in Figure 1 do specify the need for self-closing and self-latching gates. This leads to the discussion about installing ‘layback’ holes as part of a removable pool fence installation.

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