For the aquatics industry, the Virginia Graeme Baker
Pool and Spa Safety Act confirmed the worst fears about
government regulation: It was carelessly crafted, poorly
communicated, arbitrarily enforced and blindly implemented.
In the name of aquatic safety, it actually shut facilities
More than two years after its implementation, just the
acronym VGB is enough to get a rise out of many aquatics
Little wonder that the latest federal effort is getting
a cool, even hostile, reception from what appears to be a
majority of the industry. That effort is the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention’s Model Aquatic
Health Code, MAHC for short. Despite that chummy acronym,
one nervous professional characterized it as “VGB
In some respects, that assessment is correct. The MAHC
is an effort to create something that’s never been
accomplished: a unified aquatic code. While VGB focused on
one small aspect of aquatics (drain safety), MAHC will
cover all aspects of aquatics. No fewer than 12 technical
committees are hard at work right now trying to decide best
practices in key areas such as lifeguarding/bather safety,
and disinfection and water quality. What’s more,
those committees are charged with basing those practices on
science and data rather than the “this is how
we’ve always done it” mentality
that’s ruled aquatics for so long.
But it is not VGB. I repeat, MAHC is not VGB.
That’s because unlike that federal law, MAHC is
not a law at all. Instead, just as the name says, it is a
model. And it is being created by industry professionals,
not bureaucrats. The hope is that as aquatic codes are
updated by states, municipalities and the thousands of
governing bodies responsible for such regulations, they
will look to MAHC for guidance. Some may even choose to
adopt MAHC whole cloth.
But even though it isn’t a law, make no mistake
about it, the MAHC is big — very, very big. It
will affect you. It will affect your facility. Ignore it at
your own peril.
That’s why we’ve created this
year’s virtual conference, "The Model Aquatic
Health Code: Cracking the Code," along with the feature and
columns in this issue. This is your opportunity to learn
about MAHC — the process, the nuts and bolts, and
how it will affect you. For example, one of the
conference’s seven seminars will look at the key
question of liability. Even though MAHC isn’t a
law, it will be a powerful weapon for attorneys to use
against facilities that don’t follow it, just as
VGB has come to be.
Still, there’s another important way MAHC
differs from VGB: You have the opportunity to shape it. The
only way you can do that, however, is to learn about MAHC.
Our virtual conference is the place to start.
This isn’t just an invitation. It’s a
call to action. One of the biggest complaints about VGB
that I hear from professionals is that they didn’t
get a say. This time, you get one. It’s up to you
to make sure MAHC isn’t VGB x 1,000