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Creating a Safe Backyard

Designing and building a safe pool environment

By Barry Justus


You’ve made the decision to install a pool in your backyard. The hassle of driving to a public pool, possibly waiting in line if it’s overcrowded, and carting wet towels and clothing to your car will no longer be a concern. You and your children will simply be able to slide open the back door, grab a few water guns and floats, and partake in summertime fun.

Before that can happen, though, designing and building a safe pool environment should be your main concern. After all, you want peace of mind, and that begins with choosing a designer or contractor who understands the nuances of designing a safe pool and incorporating proper construction practices to achieve that.

A surprisingly large number of factors come into play when designing and building a safe, friendly, and fun swimming pool. These include overall design, worksite precautions, perimeter borders, and training the owner and family to operate the pool’s equipment.

Prep work

Your chosen designer or builder should go to great lengths to keep your family, friends, pets, and neighbours safe. This starts with the initial site plan, and continues during the project’s construction and commissioning. As a homeowner and client, you want to be sure your contractor provides proof of sufficient liability insurance, a company policy and procedure manual, crew safety training certificates, and photos of site and security procedures from previous projects. Ideally, you should visit a current construction project to see for yourself how they operate.

Construction liability is a very important concern. In the event of an accident or damages on your property, it is critical your contractor and subcontractors have their own liability insurance. Your contractor should also take reasonable precautions to ensure the jobsite poses no danger to you, your family, pets, neighbours, and the environment. A possible first line of defence is to install temporary, full-perimeter steel fencing with a locking gate. Fences prevent trespassing, theft, and vandalism, as well as keep curious neighbours from wandering onto your property. To avoid injury during construction, your contractor should organize site materials and equipment in a neat manner (e.g. protect rebar ends to avoid injury), particularly overnight and weekends when no work is being done. Everyone on the jobsite, including visitors, should wear appropriate safety gear like hard hats and protective footwear, which the contractor should have on hand.

No project can be built without a detailed, wellthought-out design that makes safety a priority, including the project’s outside perimeter. In fact, most jurisdictions have minimum standards for swimming pool fences and/or enclosures. Your designer or contractor should proceed with an initial site safety inspection that takes note of the condition of existing fences, gates (including self-closing/self-latching mechanisms), and any additional security concerns, such as steep slopes and other bodies of water (e.g. ponds, streams, and lakes). Similarly, nearby balconies, elevated decks, and garages that could be used as a jumping point into the pool should also be considered.

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