European Health & Safety Regulations for Swimming Pools

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18 Mar 2008 00:00 by kimberleyallen Star rating. 7 posts Send private message

Can anyone help me in finding a copy of the european health and safety regulations for swimming pools in Spain?

I have a property in an urbanisation in Marbella and arrived last week to find that a dreadful fence had been erected around the swimming now looks like a penguin enclosure!  At the AGM of the community we were informed that there was nothing we could do.  We had had an inspection and if we didn't conform with the new regulations the pool would be closed and there would be a huge fine.  Our swimming pool area is actually already enclosed by a wall that separates the pool from the houses and it could easily be extended in height and gates erected.  Apparently this was rejected by the inspector who insisted that the seating area of the pool be separated by a fence from the actual swimming pool.  I have no objection the the pool area being made secure but I do object to what we have ended up with which has ruined a previously beautiful area and I wonder whether there is any way we could challenge the inspector's ruling, perhaps with an independent report.  Would it be possible to have a pool architect who could work with health and safety? It may be that the inspector has been too literal in the application of the law. 

The area that has been left between the actual pool and the pool area boundary is now very narrow and you are left with sitting on a sunbed looking directly at a fence.  Furthermore if anyone, let alone a child, was to get in trouble in the water, precious seconds would be lost running round the pool trying to find a gate to gain access to the water.  The pool is unique in that is has a graduated edge and children can play at the water's edge as they would at the sea and gain confidence in the water as their own pace.  I have four children who have all learned to swim in this pool and along with this graduation you will see in the photograph that there are underwater pillars which serve as a visual boundary for the children to where the depth of the water increases.  These also have to be removed.  I therefore believe that separating the pool from the seating area and removing the pillars actually increases the dangers for children rather than if the whole of the pool area was separated.  I cannot understand the logic of separating the pool from the seating area, and therefore separating the children from their parents.

I would like to know whether the fence rule would apply if there was a lifeguard? Would it apply if the urbanisation was one where no children were allowed.  Would it be possible to enclose the pool area and enforce a rule that all children under the age of 16 are not allowed at the pool without a parent?  Surely there must be a way that satisfies everyone and remains within the law.

If you look on the photograph you will see that there is an island.  At the moment the edges of the island are narrow and sloping and so no children bother climbing on it.  The inspector has ruled that the area around the island has to be increased and made flat.  This will just result in children climbing on to it and jumping off it...possibly into the shallow end...again more danger.  The inspector has also ruled that we have to have a toilet...even though each of the 26 houses have 3 or 4 toilets.  This would mean that we then have to have someone to clean the toilet apart from the unnecessary expense.  There seems to be a distinct lack of common sense!

If anyone has any ideas or can point me in the direction of someone who can help it would be greatly appreciated.


This picture was taken before the pool was refilled

This message was last edited by kimberleyallen on 3/18/2008.

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18 Mar 2008 21:04 by DoubleJ Star rating in Las Alpujarras and L.... 143 posts Send private message

DoubleJ´s avatar


As you've probably gathered, European HSE Regulations can be a minefield. The UK are reasonably dilligent in taking European legislation and converting it into UK policy. I've just reviewed "Managing health and safety in swimming pools (HSG179)"  (yawn !!) which is the current UK based legislation for all swimming pools (inside, outside etc). Unfortunately, I can't give you a link to it as it is only accessible via registered users (my wife is a qualified SHE professional). There is absolutely nothing specific within this that requires pool edge barriers, which is a good indication that the European regulations almost certainly don't contain anything specific either.

The problem is, that doesn't stop other governments (Spain), local authorities (Andalucia) or even local town halls (Marbella) applying their own interpretation of the guidance.

An example of this is what we see now in the UK around Xmas time with illuminated Xmas trees outside pubs etc. Almost all of them now have unsightly, temporary metal or wooden fencing placed around them. There is no specific European or UK legislation requiring this, it's just local councils being particularly risk averse as a result of the current claim culture. There is also a degree of uninformed copy-catting.

Back to the the pool !!.... HSG179, like other HSE guidance, is not a compendium of legal requirements. It is simply intended to help pool operators meet the goal-setting requirements. Following the guidance should ensure that you are complying with the law, but it is not compulsory and other action can be taken to achieve compliance. The overarching duty is to prevent exposure to risk so far as is reasonably practicable. This does not mean operators should incur disproportionate costs in implementing measures that anticipate relatively remote risks.

Obviously, the inspector has performed a risk assessment on the pool area and the fence is the result of his recommendations. It would be interesting to see the associated risk which generated the need for the fence. It could be argued (as you have done) that, overall, the risk level has actually increased.

If the fence is to prevent accidental falls into the pool, this could be achieved by a suitable boundry around the greater pool/garden area, with access gates etc. The, one we use at La Manga is like this, with a high fence and with a key entry gate. On the gate there are the usual pool rules (no running, no unattended children etc). The argument would be that if you have made the conscious decision to enter the pool area, you are aware that there is a pool there...... with some water.... which will be wet !!!

Although HSG 179 doesn't cover the need for pool boundaries, there is a small bit of guidance relating to minimum spaces around pools to avoid congestion... something along the lines of: "The pool surrounds and other circulation areas should be designed so as to ensure the free flow of bathers and the avoidance of congestion. A minimum surround width of 2 m is recommended, but it may be possible for a narrower width to be used safely in some circumstances". In your case there is virtually no room.

It could also be argued that the introduction of the fence so close to the waters edge discriminates against disabled (wheelchair) users, who may benefit from a more uncluttered entry.

Regarding lifeguards, it depends what the fence is there for. If it's for while people are using the pool, then a lifeguard should remove the need for it. If it's there to prevent late night revellers from inadvertently falling into the pool, then a lifeguard will not change this risk (but a boundry wall would).

Regarding the island, I can see the logic here. The island should act as a "resting" point if a swimmer becomes tired. With a sloping surface, the tired swimmer couldn't necessarily hold on in a panic, whereas they could lean onto a flat surface. The best solution for you here would be to maintain the slope, but add a chrome rail (on the slope) for tired swimmers to hold on to. Additional UK guidance is to also have a recessed, underwater foot ledge at these "rest" points. Aesthetically, this wouldn't be an issue for you.

Lots of issues.... and at the end of the day, if the local legislators want to apply rules, it may be difficult to change this. Probably the best approach is to try and work with them to look at the most cost effective way of minimising all the associated risks.

Hope this helps


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23 Mar 2008 19:59 by mariadecastro Star rating in Algeciras (Cadiz). 9330 posts Send private message

Legal Questions? Speak to Maria Direct

I cannot see that fence requirement anyplace either. Please check article above.

Best wishes,



Maria L. de Castro, JD, MA



El blog de Maria

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12 Jul 2009 17:24 by Anke Star rating. 2 posts Send private message

Can anybody help me please? I am trying to find out information with regards to having a fence around a private pool of a villa that is rented out. The question is: Does the owner have to errect a fence by law, if the villa is rented out? I would appreciate anybody getting back to me if you know the answer of know where I can find out the correct answer.


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12 Jul 2009 17:24 by Anke Star rating. 2 posts Send private message

Can anybody help me please? I am trying to find out information with regards to having a fence around a private pool of a villa that is rented out. The question is: Does the owner have to errect a fence by law, if the villa is rented out? I would appreciate anybody getting back to me if you know the answer of know where I can find out the correct answer.


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