Swimming Pool Safety Requirements in France

If you have ever looked around real estate in the South of France, you almost certainly will have seen some strange objects placed on the lip of swimming pools; the pool alarm, which is one of the simplest means of complying with the French laws on swimming pool safety. The principal law, dating from January 2003, finds its origins in the desire to reduce the number of accidental drownings in private pools in France, and particularly in the South of France from property as far east as Menton to La Garde Freinet property in the west and all the towns in between along the French Riviera. In this region alone drowning in private pools was the first or second cause of death of children in the 1 to 5 year age range.

Pool Alarm

Following this law, all private swimming pools set into the ground (as opposed to above-ground pools), in France must now be equipped with a safety device, which has been certified in conformity with French or European norms (NF). Failure to comply with the law may mean a fine of up to 45,000€ and a possible prison sentence. Basically these devices fall into four categories:

The pool alarm mentioned above is certainly the cheapest and least difficult system to install. It may be activated by someone falling into the water, or by crossing a perimeter line marked by an infrared beam. There was an unpleasant surprise for many pool owners in 2009 when the authorities decided that several of the alarms authorized to detect people falling in, were in fact unsatisfactory and their type approval was withdrawn, meaning they had to be replaced.

House near Mougins with Pool Fence

While the alarm is an easy solution it is not ideal when there are young children present, as it does not stop them falling in. To prevent a young child getting near the pool a poolfence is the best solution. Again, it must be of an approved type and this means at least 110 centimeters high. Particular care is taken in the specification of the entry gate, the opening of which must be childproof and it should be self-closing. Beware, a good homemade fence may be a much safer solution than an approved alarm, but it does not necessarily comply with the law.

Riviera Pool Cover

The inconvenience of a fence is that it can often be rather intrusive visually. This is the reason many owners prefer to install a pool cover particularly one that retracts underground. The cover must be able to support the weight of an adult. Depending on the shape of the pool and other factors, it may be difficult to install such a cover, and it is often reserved for new pools where it can be integrated from the design stage. While it also keeps the pool clean and retains the heat when closed, nothing stops a child from falling in when it is open.

Cote d'Azur pool shelter

Probably the least visually attractive solution is the pool shelter which is generally a free-standing entity that provides sheltered swimming in the cooler months, but can be rolled back in the summer. Lean-to versions also exist. However the same safety comments apply as for covers.

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