Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
At this point, I’m as sick of writing those words as you
probably are of reading them. But write we must, because after more
than three years, this law is still plaguing aquatics.
At best, this latest issue makes professionals look like they
don’t know what they’re doing. At worst, it makes them
look like they put profit before safety. The truth, of course, lies
somewhere in the gray middle. But major newspapers and media
outlets are all too happy to make hay with the black and white
They are not pretty. Put simply, concerns have arisen about the
safety of VGB-approved safety drain covers because of questionable
testing methods used by one or more labs to approve them.
That’s an oversimplification. To get all of the details, I
encourage you to turn to our latest news
story on the subject.
These questionable testing methods have left the U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission, which as you no doubt know by now is
charged with enforcing and interpreting VGB, with the unenviable
decision about how to handle it all. It could be a slap on the
wrist, or it could be a full-scale recall.
Either way, the industry comes out looking bad.
Things don’t look to be getting much better, either. The
group responsible for current testing language is busily working to
shore it up, though it seems unclear and uncertain exactly how to
do that. Meanwhile, a new standard is being written to replace the
old one. And this is where it gets really sticky. One of the
agencies attached to the new standard is the same one at the heart
of the controversy swirling around safety drain covers. That agency
is the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical
Officials. Among other things, the CPSC investigation has resulted
in accusations against IAPMO of engaging in questionable methods
and ethics. Now it is working with the Association of Pool &
Spa Professionals on a replacement standard?
Just wait until the national media get hold of that!
From the start the VGB has been a mess. Manufacturers only had six
months to get a product to market. And the law’s language has
been interpreted and reinterpreted ad infinitum. But that mess has
only been exacerbated by a system that lets professionals with
business conflicts of interest write standards. I know many of
these members have the best intentions, and it’s wise to have
their input. But the industry can’t afford even the
appearance of impropriety.
Until impartial members are a bigger part of these groups, I fear
VGB-related controversies will continue to batter the industry. And
you, the operator, will continue to have to clean up the messes,
whether it’s in the form of replacing drain covers in a
recall or explaining to a worried patron why your pool really is
safe. Let’s examine VGB standard writing groups. If they all
have conflicts of interest, or even a perceived conflict, balance
them with impartial members. You deserve a system that puts safety
first, and so does the swimming public.
The choice is clear: We can clean up VGB now, or more messes later.