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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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