Is Your Public Swimming Pool or Spa Safe? (2009)

The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission began enforcement on December 19, 2008 of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §8001, which creates a duty of care for all owners and operators of public swimming pools and spas that are fitted with submerged suction drain outlets known as main drains.

The Act requires that all main drains, new and existing, of all sizes are to be protected by devices which prevent entrapment of persons utilizing those pools and which comply with ASME, ANSI, A112.19.8-2007 standards.  The Act also provides for a secondary level of protection if a pool has a single main drain outlet which is not “unblockable” (as defined by the Act) or multiple outlets which are closer than 3 feet center to center.  The Act is to prevent against recognized suction entrapment hazards in pools and spas including hair entrapment, limb entrapment, body suction entrapment, evisceration and disembowelment, and mechanical entrapment (jewelry, swimsuits, etc.).  Sadly, this writer has been involved in a case involving a prolapsed colon caused by the suction of the main drain of a toddler pool.

The additional secondary safety function under the Act could be: disabling the drains (not a great option); drain replacement with a single “unblockable” drain or dual drains at least 3 feet center to center; safety vacuum release system; suction limiting vent system; gravity drainage system; automatic pump shut off; or a catch all approved system.

Are pools and spas which are noncompliant being closed down?  It depends upon the local and state inspectors.  Presently, the Consumer Products Safety Commission is not enforcing the law.

There are contractors which can make any required changes to comply with law and some “unblockable” covers are beginning to be available.

© 2009

James A. L. Buddenbaum has practiced law for more than 25 years with Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP representing municipalities and businesses in utility, healthcare and general business sectors in both regulatory and transactional matters.  Jim also has extensive experience in representing businesses in making large property damage and similar insurance claims.

The statements contained herein are matters of opinion for general information purposes only and should not be considered by anyone as forming an attorney client relationship or advice for any particular legal matter of the reader. All readers should obtain legal advice for any specific legal matters.