Feature Article - June 2008
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The Deep End

Safety First
New Legislation Requires Protection from Dangerous Drains

The recently passed Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 is named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who in 2002 at the age of 7 died in a spa after being entrapped by the powerful suction from a drain. Among other requirements, the legislation provides incentives for states to adopt pool safety laws to protect children from similar accidents and life-threatening injuries from dangerous pool and spa drains.

"The future is going to be less tolerant of ignorance and apathy, and the reason I say that is we have seen legislation passed for the first time with the Baker Act, and that's encouraging additional legislation," said Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). "When legislators start enacting laws, that's a bad thing. When we have to have outside organizations—government organizations that aren't experts in our field—implementing laws, that's saying we're not doing a good enough job from a safety standpoint."

As a result of the recently passed legislation, and the threat of more legislation of aquatic problems to come, Lachocki said he believes more people in the industry will make the more difficult—and correct—decision to meet higher standards, rather than being required to do so by government organizations that don't have expertise in the industry.

"I think the other thing that will fall under this is we're going to realize it's less expensive to train our staff to meet and exceed safety standards than to hire lobbyists to impact governmental decisions. Those training and engineering investments we make benefit our customers, while lobbying for lower standards or trying to reduce legislation actually hurts our customers," Lachocki said.

Another new development that will enter the picture along with increasing legislation, Lachocki said, is criminal penalties. "There have been two major points of control from the legal system nudging us to higher standards—one is health departments and their authority, and the second is liability law," he said. "New criminal penalties will mean it's not longer a money thing—it's a jail-time thing. As people make the wrong choice and we start hearing about people serving jail time, it's going to influence us to move to higher standards."