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Pool Drains Must Comply with New Federal Safety Rules

By David Goguen | Last updated on

With Memorial Day weekend behind us, it's the unofficial start to swimming season in backyards and community pools across the country. But many pool owners and public facility operators are learning that their pool drains need to be brought into compliance with new federal safety standards that aim to prevent drain and suction-related injuries and deaths.

The new federal safety regulations for pool drains are part of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool Safety Act named for the daughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Enacted in late 2007, the law requires that most drain systems at public and community pools be in compliance with new anti-entrapment safety standards in time for this summer's swimming season.

Every year, swimmers suffer injuries when toes, feet, hands, fingers, and hair get caught in pool drains, and drowning accidents are even possible when suction is strong enough, especially for young children. About 300 children drown in pools and spas each year, and these deaths include a number of cases where small children were caught in drains, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission (CPSC). The new pool drain safety regulations are aimed squarely at preventing these accidents.

So, what kinds of pool drain changes are now necessary? Depending on the sophistication of the drain system that's in place, steps that may be necessary to meet the new drain safety standards include:

  • Installation of a vaccuum release system that shuts down pumps or reverses flow circulation when a drain blockage is detected.
  • Use of new tamper-resitant drain covers with very fine grating, designed to limit suction.
  • Installation of automatic pump shut-offs and drain disablement devices.

This alert for pool owners and operators is part of a push by federal safety regulators to make sure this year's swimming season is a safe and healthy one. The CPSC just released a new report: Pool and Spa Submersion: Estimated Injuries and Reported Fatalities. Last week, we also passed along a number of Pool Safety and Healthy Swimming Tips for parents and caregivers, including information on preventing Recreational Water Illness and tips on making pools safe when they're not in use.

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