Guest Column - October 2008
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Pools/Aquatics: Avoiding Entrapment

The Impact of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act

By Dennis Berkshire

The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) is in contact with the CPSC to discuss the implementation of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Given the lack of approved products, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for public pools to meet the drain requirements by the Dec. 20, 2008 deadline. The APSP has been working for years with ANSI in establishing standards for swimming pools.

One such standard is ANSI/ASPS -7 2006, the American National Standard for Suction Entrapment Avoidance in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, Hot Tubs, and Catch Basins. The ANSI/APSP-7 standard identifies five forms of potential entrapment that can occur in a swimming pool or spa. They include hair entrapment, limb entrapment, body suction entrapment, evisceration/disembowelment and mechanical entrapment. APSP reports that it is their position that the only way to ensure a defense against all five recognized forms of entrapment is to have a drain tested and certified to meet the performance standards of ASME/ANSI A112.19.8.

The APSP also reports that test findings show that the use of a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVSR) may only activate when there is only a single source of suction to a pool or spa. They go on to state that while SVSRs may improve the entrapment safety of a single suction device, that alone cannot protect against evisceration, limb, hair or some types of mechanical entrapment. The APSP notes that a review of pools and spas in all 50 states with multiple outlets separated by no less than three feet have not had a single reported incidence of suction entrapment.

On March 28, 2008 the APSP submitted comments to the CPSC explaining their interpretation of the Pool and Spa Safety Act. Furthermore, the APSP has requested a deadline extension to June 18, 2009 for public pools to comply with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. Currently, the state of Florida has both a Senate Bill (SB 1580) and a House Bill (HB 963) in the works to enact state compliance with the Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act. In the absence of certified main drains from recognized testing agencies, public pools and spas cannot comply. Once the market has approved products, a reasonable time will have to be given to allow all of the public pools and spas in the U.S. to comply. Until then, all we can do is ensure we design and construct pools and spas with multiple drains in compliance with the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 standards.


Dennis Berkshire is client services director for Aquatic Design Group, a Carlsbad, Calif., consulting firm that specializes in the programming, planning, design and engineering of competitive, recreation and leisure-based aquatic facilities. For more information, visit