Your family pool may seem like a safe haven in the middle of a hectic and complex world, but the fact is, any water feature on your property constitutes a safety hazard, particularly for children and animals. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was signed into law on Dec. 19, 2007, to establish minimum standards for pool safety, including the installation and retrofitting of commercial and private pool and spa drain covers. The law addresses the number of drowning deaths that occurred annually prior to its implementation as a result of underwater entrapment in or around submerged drains, including that of the granddaughter of former Secretary of State, James Baker III, for whom the law is named [source: PoolSafety.gov].
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as well as the Attorneys General for each state are empowered to enforce and monitor compliance with the swimming pool safety act, work in concert to address concerns about pool safety, and educate the public about safe pool maintenance practices. The program is funded by federal grants provided to participating states.
The pool safety and swimming safety standards mentioned here are specific to federally mandated minimums, but your state may have more stringent or additional rules in place. If you own a pool or spa, use a public pool or spa facilities, or are considering a pool purchase, familiarize yourself with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act as well as the pool safety rules and regulations for your state and municipality.
Facts about the Swimming Pool Safety Act
One of the goals of the swimming pool safety act is to provide layers of protection between a swimmer and danger. In the case of a pool drain, mandated covers make it more difficult for a swimmer to become trapped while underwater. Requiring fences around pools protects small children from approaching them unsupervised. If a parent gets distracted for a moment or stern words of caution prove unequal to a child's curiosity about a neighbor's pool, these safety precautions will help keep a lapse from becoming a tragedy.
The law sets forth more stringent rules for public pools than for backyard pools. Basically, there are four parts to the swimming pool safety act to consider:
- Manufacturers - Drain cover manufacturers must conform to the entrapment protection standards for all goods sold in the United States.
- Government Oversight - States that adopt the minimum standards of the act are eligible for federal grant money to help pay for the program.
- Compliance - Public and private pools and spas must meet the new safety standards, including modifying existing pools and spas to bring them into compliance.
- Education - Participating states must provide programs to educate the public about pool safety and changes in the law. Federal monies will help with this aspect of the act, too.
Although the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for enforcing the Swimming Pool Safety Act, each state will have its own specific regulations regarding swimming safety.
Now, let's take a look at some of the important sections of the act to see how they apply to public and private pools.
Key Aspects of the Swimming Pool Safety Act
One of the act's main provisions establishes a standard for the materials, testing and other specifics related to the manufacture of drain covers according to the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 or later. The standard applies to any manufacturer who makes pool or spa drain covers for the U.S. market. Going forward it will help make future pool and spa installations much safer.
In order to be in compliance with the act, state laws must set forth these minimum requirements for pool safety:
- Public Facilities - A public pool or spa is defined as one that is: operated by the federal government, open to the public, available to a specific membership, or belonging to a hotel or apartment building. After Dec. 19, 2008, all public pools must be equipped or retrofitted with anti-entrapment devices or systems that are in compliance with the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8. standard. Public pools must upgrade single main drain systems and make sure that multiple main drains are a minimum of 3 feet apart. Unblockable drain systems are exempt from the basic provisions of the act.
- Access - There should be an enclosure around outdoor residential pools that prevents young children from entering unsupervised. Recommendations in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission publication, "Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools" suggest that fences have a height of at least 48 inches and a maximum bottom clearance of four inches or less. For more information, review the specific requirements for your state [source: CPSC].
- Updated Pool Drains - Residential pools should be upgraded to include equipment or devices that will prevent entrapment, such as anti-entrapment drain covers on main drains that aren't unblockable.
- New Installation - New pools and spas installed on or after Dec. 19, 2008, must meet one of these standards:
- More than one drain installed
- At least one unblockable drain installed
- No main drain present
- Public and Industry Awareness- Educational programs designed to help prevent entrapment and drowning must be made available to both pool professionals and the public.
When the days get longer and the temperature gets hotter, having a pool to play in is a terrific way to pass the time. To keep everyone protected, make pool and swimming safety your top priority by performing any necessary updates to your favorite watering hole before the start of the season. Supervise pool activities, and stay alert at all times, especially when there are children present.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- CPSC. "To the Public Pool and Spa Safety Community" 12/15/08. 3/30/10.http://nspf.org/Documents/CPSC_Articles/CPSC_121608.pdf
- CPSC. "CPSC Staff's Guide To Complying With The Law." 12/19/08. 3/31/10.http://nspf.org/Documents/CPSC_Articles/GuideToCompliance.pdf
- Live and Learn. "Swimming Pool Safety". Undated. 3/30/10.http://www.liveandlearn.com/pools.html
- NSPF. "Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act." Undated. 3/30/10.http://nspf.org/FPSSA.html
- NSPF. "Safety Barrier Guidelines For Home Pools." Undated. 3/31/10.http://nspf.org/Documents/CPSC_Articles/cpscSection1404.pdf
- PoolSafety.gov. "Swimming Pool and Spa Safety Starts with You!" Undated. 3/29/10.http://www.poolsafety.gov/
- PoolSafety.gov. "Background on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act." Undated. 3/28/10.http://www.poolsafety.gov/media.html
- PoolSafety.gov. "Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act." Undated. 3/29/10.http://www.poolsafety.gov/pssa.html
- PoolSafety.gov. "Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act Frequently Asked Questions." Undated. 3/28/10.http://www.poolsafety.gov/pssafaq.html