Feature Article - July 2009
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Water Hazard

Managing Aquatic Risk

By Daniel Margolis

Compliance Questions

All the training in the world won't matter if your facility is inherently unsafe. Depending on the location, various laws will apply, but the most recent national legislation applies to all U.S. facilities.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2007. The law requires all public pools to meet anti-entrapment safety standards established by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It also establishes a grant program for states that adopt these laws and a national drowning prevention program.

On the surface the act seems fairly simple, calling for drain covers and suction entrapment avoidance on drains and barriers in pools. But compliance with the act has proven difficult. In February, Christine Gregoire, governor of the state of Washington, wrote to Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the CPSC, asking that the implementation date for the act, set at Dec. 19, 2008, "be extended 18 to 24 months." She was not alone in making this request; various interest groups have done so as well.

Dennis Berkshire, director of client services for the Aquatic Design Group, Carlsbad, Calif., said these requests are justified, with one qualification. "That's assuming that the drains that a pool has already meet the general intent of the safety requirements of drains," he said. "Most states have had requirements for drains built in an anti-entrapment configuration for years now."

Berkshire points out a number of problems with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. First of all, he points out that as of the law's implementation date, there were almost no commercial pool drains on the market that were compliant. One reason for this is that there are more residential than commercial pools in the United States—much more. This skews where manufacturers of drains target their efforts. "There's a huge disparity between the two, so as a manufacturer, when you're going to produce drains, which one would you try to produce first?" Berkshire asked.