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Swimming Pool Law in France  




Law update, 2012


There is continuing confusion about what types and specifications of security systems people should install. At first, there was a period during 2003 whilst experimental standards (published for public information) were under discussion. Some people went ahead and installed equipment, especially fences, on the assumption that the experimental standards would be ratified. Others waited on the basis that if you install equipment based on experimental standards you run the risk of having to change or upgrade when the final standards were published.

After a long delay, the final standards were published and ratified in January 2004, or so we thought. Because in the March AFNOR, the French standards body, announced that they would be publishing revised "normes" after early tests on equipment threw up a need for further clarification.


There are four types of approved security system:

1. Security Barriers, AFNOR standard: NF P 90-306.
Removable or permanent, ensure the best safety as entrance to the pool side is not available to young children.

2. Pool Alarms, AFNOR standard: NF P 90-307.
Immersion detector or perimeter alarm. Be aware, even if you have installed a certified device, if an accident occurs you are still liable. Even the most advanced or expensive alarm system is only effective if there is someone there to react to it.

3. Pool Covers, AFNOR standard: NF P 90-308.
Summer & Winter covers are only accepted if they are AFNOR approved. Due to the recent nature of these standards, covers older than 3 years old are not certified.

4. Pool Abris, AFNOR standard: NF P 90-309.
The most expensive option.



The protection barrier can be combined with one (or more) wall(s) of buildings, or dwellings, bordering the zone in which the swimming pool is located.

A hedge alone cannot be regarded as a protection barrier. The chosen barrier must be AFNOR approved check that your chosen fencing/barrier has this before purchasing it. The protection barrier must be built in order to prevent the passage of children of less than five years old by striding over, climbing or accidental opening of the means of access. All barriers must also have a self-closing and self-locking gate as part of their fence and must open outwards. To prevent the accidental opening of the gate by a child of less than five years the unlocking system should necessitate a minimum force of 20N.The minimal height of the barrier must be at least 1.1m and should be installed a minimum of 1m from the water's edge and not so far from the edge of the pool to render them ineffective.

Floating Pool Alarm

Devices with remote alarms sounding in the home can alert you to a child falling into the pool. The pool surface, however, must be disturbed enough by the fall so as to set off the alarm. Since these alarms do work off a disturbance to the surface of the pool; your child could quietly walk down the steps, go under, drown, and never disturb the alarm or set it off!!! Better than nothing at all since they do detect some accidental falls if adjusted and placed properly. Alarm batteries and function should be checked often to increase the safety margin and effectiveness of this type of device. If this is your choice of protection, be sure the model you purchase has a remote alarm that will sound in the house and a local alarm that will also alert someone near the pool area.

Immersion detector A device which is fitted to the edge of the pool with part of the alarm immersed into the swimming pool, it detects any movement in the water and sets of the alarm with-in the system. The system only works efficiently if there are adults near by respond to it.

Infrared Beam

This alarm is designed to detect motion around the perimeter of the pool. These are designed similar to your burglar alarm systems, if the infer red beam is broken an alarm will be triggered.

Removable Safety Fencing

Removable safety fencing has proven, over the past thirty years, to be the most practical and effective barrier against pool drowning short of putting up a permanent rail fence. The concept is simple. Isolate the pool from your home and eliminate all access to the water by a toddler. For the pool to be truly isolated and the barriers serve effectively, there must not be a reason to open the pool fence other than to use or service the pool itself. That means not having to open the pool fence to go out a screen enclosure door or into your backyard. These areas should be accessible to you without opening the swimming pool fence. The more times a fence is opened, for a reason other than to use the pool, the greater the possibility that it will be left open for whatever reason.

REMOVABLE Pool fence is a great idea as it can be removed quickly to enjoy the pool and it's surroundings and then put back up very easily.

Constructed of see through, polyester mesh mounted on aluminium or fiberglass support poles. The fence is placed into aluminium or plastic sleeves installed into your deck surface. The bottom border of the fence material should be flush to your deck so as to prevent a child from pushing under. The basic principal that keeps pool fence in place is bilateral tension and the fence should be checked periodically to insure that you have benefit of its full function.

A standard pool fence is removable in approximately fifteen feet sections. Each section can easily be rolled up and weighs only fourteen pounds. The average one hundred foot fence can be removed in less than fifteen minutes and be put back up in approximately the same amount of time. Most fences, however, are never taken down until children in the home are old enough not to require this safe guard any longer.

Self-Closing, Self-Locking Gates

Self-closing, self-latching gates are automatic and provide better protection if there are persons in the house that can't remember to close a gate behind them. Because it does not have to be physically closed or locked by the user it is a more practical option when there are older children in the home who have unsupervised access to the swimming pool. Be sure that your gate is always installed to swing out or away from the pool or water.

The above is for your general information. It should not be used as a definitive interpretation of the law in any way. You should ensure that any security product you purchase for your swimming pool conforms and has an AFNOR stamp of approval.

The relevant AFNOR statement in French can be found here:

This had all the makings of a French farce, but not a very funny one. In the same document AFNOR stated that the revised normes would be published in early May 2004. Swimming pool owners (of rented properties) will not need reminding that May 1st was also the date by which they must have complied with the legislation!

Thankfully, as of early May 2004 AFNOR have stated that the final regulations are indeed now published (but you still have to buy them from their web site - see below).

There is a statement which summarises the latest position here 
Importantly it does say that if you installed equipment based on the original standards published that these will still comply. (which makes one wonder what the revisions were all about).

The statement also provides a link to a list of manufacturers who were part of the commission (though it makes clear that being part of the commission does not imply that their products conform) here: 

AFNOR state that you have two choices to comply:

1. Rely on the manufacturers word (self-certification). There are plenty of products around now claiming to conform to the standards.

2. Buy a product with the official NF mark of conformity.

As there have yet been no official product tests (so far as we know) for manufacturers to validate their products' conformity it is largely down to relying on the word of the installer or manufacturer, who must provide a "note technique" as regards compliance of any installation.

So what can we be sure of?

Well, in case you still want the full official version of the final standards you can purchase online (Euros 67.15) the following standards documents from AFNOR, the French standards body.

Safety Barriers (Fences) - Final Standard published NF P90-306

Safety Covers – Final Standard published NF P90-308

Pool Alarms - Final Standard published NF P90-307

Pool shelters - Final Standard published NF P90-309

Note that these are in French and to our knowledge there have not yet been any official English translations.

As regards the law the main points are:

The law requires that a standardised security system (dispositif de sécurité normalisé) is installed to pools in these categories as follows:

In-ground outdoor pools, not to indoor or above-ground or on-ground pools.

New pools installed after 2003 or those that are located at a property which is rented must comply by 1st Jan 2004 (amended to 1st May 2004 for existing pools at rented property).

Those that are for private use only must comply by 1st January 2006

The penalty for non-compliance is €45,000.

Can I choose my security system?

Many people had assumed that the law would require a safety barrier (fence) and that the other systems would be supplementary. However, it is now pretty clear that this is NOT the case. It would appear (and you must seek other independent technical and/or legal advice to be absolutely sure) that legally you may select any of the standardised security system options provided that it complies with the appropriate AFNOR standard AND it is maintained and kept in an active and effective state.

If this is the case, i.e. that you have the option of selecting say, an approved alarm system instead of a fence, then the situation is actually more complicated and there will be a number of implications and points to consider. For example: the installation of any standardised system will not in itself protect you from legal action (either by the authorities or by an individual) if you have not maintained the system AND kept it in an active state. For example, if you have an alarm but it cannot be heard from part of your house while the pool is in use this would, one imagines, be considered to be ineffective. Equally if you have a fence system with gate but someone leaves the gate open or unlocked the same would apply.

There will be a much wider range of cost options assuming you can choose the type of system

What is suitable for use in say a gite complex with lots of children and visitors who are unfamiliar with swimming pools may not be suitable or necessary for a private pool

If you are letting your property you may find that your insurance company or letting agency will make the decision for you, i.e. they may decide not to cover you or let your property unless it has a particular type of security device

Although fencing may prove to be many people's choice there has been a lot of recent debate about the number of child drownings that occur with fenced-in pools. Some people say this is caused by a false sense of security provided by having a fence leading in turn to an over-relaxed attitude

Whatever choice you make, there is of course no substitute for adult responsibility, common sense and vigilance

As with much French law there is scope for different interpretation. Unfortunately it will require a number of prosecution test cases before things become clearer. One also wonders what the legal position is with regards to manufacturers self-certifying their products Presumably if a pool-owner who had installed a manufacturer certified product was sued by a client or by the authorities for failure to comply they would have in turn to take legal action against the manufacturer!

You should anticipate that insurance companies, holiday letting agents and informed clients will expect that pool security systems comply with the AFNOR standards and you should check with insurers and agents to see if they have their own specific requirements.

You must ask installers for written confirmation that their products comply with the AFNOR standards, keep copies of receipts for work carried out and regular recorded maintenance checks of your security equipment.

Let us hope that the muddy waters of this swimming pool security farce start to settle over the coming months. In the meantime we should be grateful to hear of anything contrary to this interpretation or that adds to the picture that is emerging. 







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