One of the leading drowning deaths in the United States is due to entrapment. It is for this reason that the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Act was put into effect on December 17, 2007. This act is enforced by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is responsible for making sure that public and private pools are in compliance as well as recalls regarding pool products. The hazards of drain entrapment and dangers relating to fixtures within the pools that can trap individuals making it possible for them to drown are directly addressed within the act.
There is a performance standard within the act that must be met by manufacturers of drain covers. All drain covers that are manufactured, starting one year after the enactment of the title, must meet the entrapment protection standards listed in the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 performance standard. The essentials of this requirement include:
All public pools and spas in the United States are required to be equipped with anti-entrapment devices or other such systems that comply with the standards.
Each public pool or spa that has a single main, not including an unblockable drain, must have one or more of the required safety items. A safety vacuum release system, a suction limiting vent system, automatic pump shut-off system, gravity drainage system, or other system that has been determined by the Commission to be as effective as those described.
Violators of the requirements of the Act are subject to fines and closure of the public pools or spas until such time as compliance has been established.
Pool Safety in General
The need for safety near pools and spas is clear when you consider that accidental drowning is rated as the second leading cause of death in the United States for children ages 1 to 14 years. In fact, in the year 2004, shortly before the enactment of the VGB Act, 761 children under the age of 14 died due to accidental drowning. The many layers of protection that have been suggested are intended to ensure that there are fewer accidental deaths by swimming pool and spa accidents.
The rules and regulations are intended to prompt the manufacturing of products that will prevent individuals in a pool or spa from being sucked into the filter systems and held under the water with no way of getting out. Even a small amount of water can be a danger to young children making it important that these guidelines are followed and adhered to. Covers over drains that prevent hair, arms, legs and swimsuits from becoming caught are an essential part of helping to protect children from dangerous drowning situations.
Contradictions in Rules
All states and towns must comply with federal safety requirements. If you are in a state or a town that does not allow you to disable suction outlets or utilize specific suction outlet covers, you will want to contact the CPSC or help. They can work with the state or town to make sure that they fall into compliance with the rules set up. It is important that you hire a professional that has the experience and certifications to properly design a pool that fits the federal safety requirements.
If there is a single main drain or suction outlet, other than the unblockable suction outlet, the operator is required to install another anti-entrapment device. This can be an automatic pump shut-off system, a gravity drainage system, a suction-limiting vent system or a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS). The pool can have multiple suction devices, but only one is a requirement of the law. It is important that the definition of an unblockable suction outlet be understood. This is any size drain that is of any shape that cannot be sufficiently blocked by a human body to create a suction entrapment hazard.
Most Likely Dangers
While all pools and spas can be hazardous as an entrapment danger, there are some areas that are more likely to cause problems than others. Any pool that is intended for children such as a kiddie pool or wading pool that also has accessible suction outlets can be a major hazard for young children. In ground spas with outlet grates that are flat and used for suction and any pool or spa with a single suction outlet system. These should be very carefully checked for adherence to the laws relating to the matter.
When installing a pool or spa on the property, particularly in public areas, it is vital that you hire someone that understands the laws and requirements as they are set out. Finding a professional can best be accomplished by contacting local officials such as your town office or the state department. They can often supply you with a list of individuals that are experts in the field such as professional engineers or registered design professionals. Make sure that the company you choose is licensed, certified and insured before you hire them for the work. This will likely mean that they have the most current information regarding safety options and regulations, both on local and federal footings.
Markings of Compliant Drain Covers
All drain covers manufactured in the United States should include the type of intended use (multiple suction or single suction outlet), gallons per minute (GPM), type of fitting, life of fitting, model name and number and whether it is floor or wall mount intended. If you find no mark on the outlet you will want to contact the manufacturer to confirm that the outlet is truly within regulation. You can obtain a Certificate of Compliance from the manufacturer. This is a good way to be positive that the cover is going to be compliant with federal regulations before you get started.
Maintenance Drains and Outlets
It is important to understand that even those drains and outlets that are used for maintenance only purposes must also be compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. They require coverage by a proper outlet cover, but a secondary anti-entrapment backup system is not required. In addition, these drains and outlets are not to be utilized when there are swimmers in the spa or pool.
Multiple Suction Outlets
You will need to know if your pool has multiple suction outlets or not. A pool is considered to have multiple suction outlets if it has at least two suction outlets per pump and per pool that are fully submerged. The suction covers or grates should be at least three feet apart, measuring from center to center of them, or must be located on different levels. The best way to be sure that your pool has multiple suction outlets is to call in a certified inspector to take a look. They will want to be sure that the spacing is correct and that the suction is doing the job it is supposed to.
Equalizer Lines and Skimmers
Skimmers with equalizer lines are subject to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act as they are considered to be suction outlets and must be covered with suction outlet covers or plugs that are compliant. These lines are not considered to be a main drain line. The equalizer line of a skimmer only becomes effective if the skimmer is clogged and not working properly. Therefore, the equalizer line is not a part of the multiple suction outlet system.
Gravity Drain Outlet Systems
If the pool has a gravity drain outlet system in place, the pool is still required to have a Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act compliant outlet cover. This said, the pool is not requires to have a second anti-entrapment system in place. It is only required that the current outlet covers are compliant with the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 standard or the ANSI/APSP-16 2011 standard. It may be advisable to replace them with complaint suction outlet covers.
Field Fabricated Covers
In some circumstances, particularly where the pool or spa has been custom designed and has already been built, a field fabricated cover may be necessary. A field fabricated cover is a cover that is custom designed for a specific pool or spa to meet the regulations of the ANSI/ASME A112.19.8 (2007) or the newer standards of ANSI/APSP-16 2011. When built this field fabricated cover should be certified and include flow rates, durability and UV exposure. The engineer should provide documentation that the outlet cover meets the requirements of the standard and they should provide you with a certificate of compliance copy for your record.
The News on Sumps
It is not required to replace your current pool or spa sump with a new one. It is required that the current sump be made compliant with ANSI/APSP-16 2011. This means that a new suction outlet cover must be attached to the pump. The best course of action for a current sump is to get the advice of a professional engineer. They can tell you what, if anything, needs to be done to the sump in order for it to be in compliance with the rules and regulations. If there is no way for the current sump to be fitted properly with a suction outlet cover, the old pump will need to be removed and replaced with a compliant sump as according to regulations.
Flow Rates for Suction Outlets
The suction outlet flow rates are not controlled by the federal rules and regulations, but are instead regimented by the suction outlet cover manufactures. This said, there are some minimum standards that are set by the local agencies of the states. Many of them require that the water velocity of the covers does not exceed 1.5 feet per second (fps) with a single suction outlet blocked completely. A professional in your area will understand the local requirements and will be able to help you find the right suction outlet cover for the situation. If the cover is being fabricated specifically for the pool or spa in question, you will need to be sure that the professional or manufacturer fully understands the local requirements before they begin.
Not Subjected to VGB
Spray or splash pad and recreational fountains are not necessarily subject to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. If there is no submerged suction outlet, then there is no need for a compliant cover. Whirlpool bathtubs are not required to follow the guidelines, unless the whirlpool description is included in the definition of swimming pool or spa within the act. They would be subjected to rules and regulations regarding appliances and equipment for plumbing. In some cases, physical therapy pools may be considered as public pools depending on the access that the general public has to the pool. This will greatly depend on how the pool is regulated and what type of access is given to general public individuals. If the pool is located in a hospital or private facility it may be considered private and therefore note under the rules and regulations of the VGB.