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Just Keep Swimming … Safely

Most homeowners realize the danger associated with swimming pools, both the large, in-ground variety and the smaller “kiddie pools” that people fill with a garden hose. However, fewer property owners realize that swimming pools–and the yards that house them–must comply with important safety laws as well.

THE VIRGINIA GRAEME BAKER SWIMMING POOL & SPA SAFETY ACT

The Pool and Spa Safety Act (sometimes referred to as the P&SS Act) is a U.S. federal law which went into effect on December 19, 2008. Designed to prevent drownings and eviscerations in swimming pools and spas, the Act was named for Virginia Graeme Baker, a seven-year old girl who drowned when her hair became trapped in the drain of a hot tub. Although a strong swimmer, Virginia was unable to pull away from the drain.

The P&SS Act establishes standards for drain covers and anti-entrapment systems in public pools and spas. While the PS&S Act does not apply to private pools, anti-entrapment systems are available for private pool and spa drain covers. Whether or not you need one is a question a pool contractor can answer.

CALIFORNIA SWIMMING POOL SAFETY ACT

California Health and Safety Code Sections¬†115920-115929 contain the California Swimming Pool Safety Act. This Act applies to public and private pools alike, and defines “swimming pool” as any built-in or above ground structure containing water at least eighteen inches deep. This means it applies to many plastic “kiddie pools” as well as full-sized pools, lap pools, and spas.

The Act contains regulations for safety devices and fencing around all “swimming pools” built or remodeled after 2007. New pools, and remodeled pools, completed after that date must meet the standards contained in the Act in order to qualify for construction permits. Some of the safety devices mentioned are fencing of adequate height and construction, pool covers, pool alarms (which sound if someone or something falls into the water while the alarm is enabled), locks on access doors, and door alarms for doors with direct pool access. While pools need not have all of these safety devices, homeowners should check the Act before constructing or remodeling pools to ensure compliance.

COUNTY AND LOCAL POOL SAFETY ORDINANCES

Most municipalities, including Los Angeles County, have laws and regulations governing fencing, covers, and other safety devices installed on and around swimming pools. Homeowners should make sure all pools comply with applicable laws. If you’re not sure whether or not your pool complies, contact a pool contractor or your local department of building and safety.

IMPLEMENTATION OF SAFETY STANDARDS

Compliance with the law doesn’t guarantee that a homeowner will escape liability if someone drowns or is seriously injured in or around a swimming pool. To help minimize the risk of accidental deaths and injuries, homeowners should consider the following:

1. Is there a fence around the swimming pool or spa? Does the fence have self-closing latches and locks?

2. Do fences, gates, and doors with direct pool access have alarms which sound when the door is opened?

3. Is the pool or spa cover in working order, and free from cracking or other damage?

4. Does the pool have anti-entrapment drain covers to protect against suction-related injuries and deaths?

5. Does at least one of the household residents have current first-aid training, including a recent CPR course?

6. Does everyone in the household know how to swim?

7. Before inviting people over to use the pool, or allowing household members to swim, has the household gone over pool safety rules and ensured that at least one responsible adult with first-aid training is present in case of emergency?

8. Don’t take “kiddie pools” for granted. A child can drown in only a few inches of water. Never let children swim unattended, no matter how small the pool.

These rules alone will not prevent liability completely. Accidents can happen, and homeowner liability can occur, even when people exercise caution. However, taking steps to ensure compliance–and making safety a priority–can help reduce the risks of pool-related injuries and drownings.

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