Summer on the French Riviera is all about spending lazy days around the swimming pool with family and friends.
You spend time topping up your tan on a comfortable sun lounger, while the kids dive in and out of the water all afternoon. And come evening time, the pool deck is the perfect setting for those pre-dinner drinks while the sun goes down over the Mediterranean.
With over 300 days of sunshine a year, an outdoor pool is pretty much compulsory when you live in the South of France. But while having your own pool means endless fun for the whole family, it also comes with a lot of responsibility for you, the owner.
Read out to learn more about swimming pool laws and rules in France.
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Swimming Pool Rules and Regulations
As the owner of a private in-ground swimming pool, spa or hot tub on the French Riviera, you will be subject to the Raffarin law. Introduced in 2006, the Raffarin regulations were created to prevent accidental drownings in privately owned swimming pools, particularly amongst children under the age of 5.
Why do the rules exist?
With over one million privately owned pools across France, sadly, there are between 15 and 20 tragic accidents every year, with many of them occurring on the French Riviera. Children are particularly at risk, with drowning a leading cause of accidental death among 1-5 year olds.
When the summer season starts we all know it’s almost impossible to keep the kids out of the water, so safety is a key issue once you decide to take the plunge as a pool owner.
Which type of pools does the law apply to?
The Raffarin law applies to all private in-ground or ground-level pools but doesn’t apply to indoor, inflatable or above-ground pools. The law stipulates that in-ground swimming pools must be protected by an approved security device at all times. If your pool was built or had a security system fitted before 2004, you will need a certificate of conformity from the company who fitted it to ensure it complies with the new norms. For pools built after 2004, an appropriate security device must be fitted as standard.
What happens if my pool isn’t fully protected?
If for any reason your private pool doesn’t meet French safety standards, you may be subject to a 45,000€ fine from the French Government.
What kind of device can I use?
There are 4 different types of approved security device on the market today for private pools:
- A barrier/fence around the pool
- A reinforced pool cover
- A drowning alarm
- A pool shelter
Which device should I choose?
Choosing the best pool security device for your pool depends on lots of factors. You’ll need to consider whether you use your French Riviera home as a permanent base or a holiday home, have young children or like to entertain lots of visitors during the season amongst others. To help you select the best option or options for you, we’ve put together a quick rundown of the 4 government-approved devices. Browse our handy guide and see which option best fits your lifestyle and style of pool below:
1) Barriers and fences (standard NF P90-306):
Recommended for families with young children as it doesn’t require anyone to activate the system, a pool barrier or fence is the easiest way to block access to your pool. A barrier is also a good choice if you install a custom-design pool which may be harder to cover. Available as a permanent or removable solution, if you decide to install a barrier around your pool, it must be at least 1.1m high. It must also have a self-closing and locking gate to prevent children from opening it on their own.
2) Reinforced pool covers (standard NF P90-308):
Discreet and efficient, a reinforced pool cover is a great choice if you’d like your security system to be aesthetic as well as practical. Another plus is that once the pool cover is in place it prevents children from entering the water completely and even keeps the water warm for your next dip. In order to comply with the regulations, your pool cover must be able to support up to 100kg in weight without sinking. Available in PVC or aluminium, pool covers can be adapted to most swimming pools and are stored in a practical case when the pool is in use.
3) Drowning Alarms (standard NF P90-307):
Using a drowning alarm in your pool is without a doubt the easiest option. Alarms require no installation and very little up keep. There are two types of approved drowning alarm, immersion detectors and perimeter alarms. An immersion detector triggers when an object of 2kg or more enters the water and a perimeter alarm alerts you if someone approaches the pool area. If your French Riviera property is your main family home and your children are older, a drowning alarm is a discreet way of safeguarding your pool without putting up a barrier. But of course the alarm alone won’t stop a child from falling in the water. And it will only be effective if there is someone in earshot, so if you’re not in residence all year round, you may want to consider another pool safety solution.
4) Pool shelters (standard NF P90-309):
The 4th option for protecting your pool is to install a pool shelter. Pool shelters come in all shapes and sizes, can be fixed or retractable and close the pool off completely when not in use. Although a pool shelter might not appeal if you spend a lot of time sitting poolside, they do have their advantages. If you plan to swim on a year-round basis, a shelter is a great choice as it will protect the pool from the elements and keep the water warm even when it’s raining out.
Who to call to install my safety device?
When it comes to installing a security system for your pool, it’s best to get advice from an expert. For more information and to find a reliable local contractor, simply check out the Fédération des Professionnels de la Piscine website and click on the 06 region. Alternatively, have a look at this government website to see a full list of certified agencies who can carry out a security check on your pool and provide you with a conformity certificate if required.
How can I avoid an accident in my pool?
Even with all the appropriate safety devices in place, an accident could still happen. To make sure your pool is as safe as possible this summer, the Red Cross recommends:
- Keeping young children under close supervision by the pool at all times
- Ensuring children wear appropriate flotation devices such as plastic floats or armbands but only under adult supervision
- Teaching children to swim and be comfortable in the water from a young age
- Never allowing anyone to swim alone
- Establishing pool rules for the whole family - no running by the pool, no diving, swim in pairs etc
- Removing any objects like chairs or tables which children could use to climb over a pool fence
- Keeping a phone near the pool in case of emergencies. The universal French emergency number is 112
- Taking a Red Cross water safety and first aid course to learn more about what to do in a pool emergency
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