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Safety Changes Are Affecting Pool Openings

It’s the time of year where local swimming pools open for the season but some may not be able to.

Brian Sheehan, President of Swim Club Management says there are big changes affecting pools, “Some of the biggest challenges of our clients have been being able to gain compliance with the new ADA Standards.”

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires pools have handicap accessible entries.
H-O-A’s are exempt but if they allow outsiders to swim they will have to comply says Sheehan, “It triggers it when they start allowing folks that aren’t members of HOA into their facility.”

Another change affecting pools is the Virginia Graeme Baker Act.  It requires pool drain covers.  The Federal mandate took effect a few years ago, but there’s a new issue.  Sheehan says, “Once our clients gained compliance we found out there was a recall on certain grates.”

Brian Coffey, President of Charlotte Safety says these changes have placed financial strains on pools, “The VGB stuff is thousands of dollars and handicap access is going to be the same.”

In addition to pool changes, lifeguard training courses have changed as well. Coffey says, “It’s more focused on pool time now. Its a 25 hour course and about 18 hours of that is in the water.”

The safety changes only apply to public pools, and those at hotels.  That includes any rental homes.  Your private, backyard pool is not impacted.

Reprint Of An Article By Jacinda Garabito
Source: FOX Charlotte

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ADA Compliance Requirement Delay

Summary of ADA Compliance Delay

On March 15, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a rule extending the date of compliance which relates to the provision of accessible entry and exit for public pools.  This gives a 60 day extension to the compliance date.  It allows additional time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance.

Summary of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)

On March 15, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder opened a public comment period for a NPRM.  The rule would extend the compliance date for compliance to 180 days after March 15.  It allows additional time to address misunderstandings regarding compliance and promotes clear and consistent application of the ADA’s requirements to existing facilities.

Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments submitted on or before 15 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.  Note: it has not appeared in the Federal Register yet!

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Compliance with New ADA Standards required by March 15, 2012

We have spoken with many of you over the past few months about your status relative to the new American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for swimming pools.  The Act requires compliance by March 15, 2012 or by the time your pool opens for the 2012 season.

The ADA does exempt Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) from being compliant as long as the pool is only used by Homeowners and their direct guests.  There are some actions that cause a Homeowners’ Association to lose their exemption status.  Below are some of the most common examples:

  • The Homeowners’ Association sells pool memberships to people outside the HOA.
  • The Homeowners’ Association sells day passes to non-members, unaccompanied by a member.
  • The HOA Swim Team allows non-HOA members to join the team (especially common for swim teams needing the 15-18 year old spots filled).
  • The HOA Swim Team hosts swim meets against teams that are required to be ADA compliant at their pool.  If an HOA invites into their pool facility an organization that must comply with ADA standards at their pool then the HOA must now comply with ADA to accommodate them.  HOAs should be mindful of this when hosting swim meets.
  • The HOA rents the pool to non-HOA members and/ or organizations (daycares, churches, etc).

If your HOA is not engaging in the activities above then you are probably exempt from the ADA standards at your pool.

Private Clubs are also exempt, but they need to meet the definition of a Private Club.  Below is the criteria typically used by the Department of Justice and the Courts to determine if a Club is Private (all 5 criteria must be met):

  1. Members exercise a high degree of control over club operations.
  2. The membership selection process is highly selective.
  3. Substantial membership fees are charged.
  4. The entity is operated on a nonprofit basis.
  5. The club was not founded specifically to avoid compliance with Federal civil rights laws.

We would be happy to discuss the specifics with you for your community or Club.  Please feel free to contact us with additional questions.

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Pool & Spa Safety Act

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act(P&SS Act) was enacted by Congress and signed by President Bush on December 19, 2007. Designed to prevent the tragic and hidden hazard of drain entrapments and eviscerations in pools and spas, the law became effective on December 19, 2008.

Named after spa victim Virgina Graeme Baker, all public pools and spas must have ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 compliant drain covers installed and a second anti-entrapment system installed, when there is a single main drain other than an unblockable drain.

On September 28, the CPSC voted 3 – 2 to reverse an interpretive ruling on unblockable drains. Their previous ruling was the basis upon which pool owners and contractors brought pools into compliance with the VGB Act for the December 19, 2008 deadline (May 2009 for summer-only pools).

As a result of the new ruling, it is likely that thousands of pools that were previously compliant with the VGB Act are no longer compliant and will be required to make changes. The reversal is retroactive.

From CPSC: “On April 6, 2010, the Commission approved an interpretation of the VGB Act’s definition of “unblockable drain” to include the installation of an unblockable drain cover over a small, blockable, drain suction outlet; thus eliminating the requirement of a secondary backup system. The vote of the Commission this week revoked the 2010 interpretation and re-establishes the interpretation described above, where a back-up system or device is required on single main drains that are blockable.”

The new ruling requires that the sumps (the open area under the drain cover) on “unblockable drains” be of unblockable size in order for the drain to qualify as unblockable. Previously, only the drain cover had to be of unblockable size. The concern is that if the drain cover comes off, someone could be trapped on the sump, which is not of unblockable size. The VGB Act defines an “unblockable drain” as “a drain of any size and shape that a human body cannot sufficiently block to create a suction entrapment hazard.” and has published the standard of 18 x 23” as the minimum size for a drain to qualify as unblockable.

This new ruling will only affect swimming pools and spas with unblockable drains and sumps that are smaller than the unblockable size.

It will not affect pools and spas that have multiple drains and/or secondary anti-entrapment systems such as an Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS), automatic pump shut off, gravity drainage system or suction limiting vent system. The great majority of pools will not be affected; however, it is still likely that thousands of pools will have to make modifications.

CPSC will now issue a revised interpretive rule that will clarify the new requirements. It appears that affected pools will have several ways in which to become compliant:

1. Install multiple drains
2. Enlarge the sump to conform to the size of the unblockable drain cover
3. Install one or more secondary anti-entrapment systems

The current date for compliance is May 28, 2012, although the CPSC is taking public comment on the date.

On Monday, March 1, 2010, CPSC Commissioners cast a series of votes on the implementation of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. These included the following decisions on the administration and enforcement of the Act:

1. (3-2) Instruct staff to draft a proposed interpretive rule on unblockable drain covers consistent with the definition in the staff memorandum. Commissioners Nord, Adler and Northup voted to take this action. Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioner Moore voted to not instruct staff to draft an interpretive rule interpreting unblockable drain covers;

2. (4-1) Approve the publication of a proposed interpretive rule in the Federal Register interpreting “public accommodations facility,” as drafted. Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioners Moore, Nord and Northup voted to approve as drafted. Commissioner Adler voted to approve the publication with changes.

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Who is Virginia Graeme Baker?

Learn more about the young girl who inspired the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

Virginia Graeme BakerThe Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act) takes its name from Virginia Graeme Baker, a young girl who drowned after she was trapped under water by the powerful suction from a hot tub drain.

A twin and the youngest of five, 7-year-old Graeme, as her family called her, was the daughter of Nancy and James Baker IV, the son of former Secretary of State James Baker III. A member of her community swim and diving team, Graeme was able to swim without assistance since she was 3 years old.

In June 2002, Graeme became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a faulty drain cover.

After her tragic death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Mrs. Baker, her family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congress to win support for a law to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed. The statute, which was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, was signed into law by the President in December 2007.

To carry out the requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, CPSC launched Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives, a national public education campaign to raise public awareness about drowning and entrapment prevention, support industry compliance with the Act’s requirements, and improve safety at the nation’s pools and spas.

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