As warm weather approaches, it’s time to think about opening your swimming pool for the season.

Undoubtedly, you’ve gone through this process many times before, but recent federal legislation has changed the way commercial pools prepare for this pool season.

In accordance with the recently enacted Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, public pools and spas also must now meet requirements for installation of ANSI/ASME A112.19.8a-2008 compliant suction outlet covers. New suction outlet covers that meet the current standard are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

The VGBA does not require that pools be drained at any time to become compliant with the new federal standard. The law only requires that pools and spas be retrofitted with new, approved suction outlet covers, which can be installed safely and effectively while the pool is full.

Pool owners and operators first should identify the manufacturer, size and rated flow of the facility’s existing suction outlet and suction outlet covers. Refer to the manufacturer’s Web site for the proper replacement covers. Covers and frames are tested to the ANSI/ASME A112.19.8a-2008 as a set. Mismatched covers and frames are not approved and do not meet the intent of the VGBA.

For a sump-type suction outlet, it’s important to make sure the frame, especially its fastening system, is in good condition prior to replacing the cover. Using a certified professional to determine the condition of the sump is recommended.  

Also, consider using a certified diver to replace the suction outlet cover and/or suction fittings. Once installed, they should be checked regularly for damage or loose or missing screws, as part of your regular pool maintenance program.

An approved suction outlet cover will have a rated-life marked on the cover. A Certificate of Compliance is made available by the manufacturer. Record the installation date on the certificate and file in a conspicuous place for scheduled replacement.

Many commercial pool owners are confused about the new requirements under the VGBA. The law does not require a single-suction-outlet pool to be refitted with a second suction outlet to be safe. Rather, it stipulates that all single-suction-outlet public pools, other than those with unblockable suction outlets, must install approved safety suction outlet covers and anti-entrapment device systems, such as SVRS’s, to achieve compliance. 

Some systems shut off the pumps and vents to atmosphere or reverse the circulation flow when a blockage is detected.

As it stands, the quickest, most cost-effective way to retrofit a pool may be to use an SVRS. Most can be installed and activated in one to three hours by a trained installer.

Commercial pool owners can study all safety options by visiting manufacturers’ Web sites. Please note, all information presented in this summary is general in nature and not intended as a recommendation or prescription for any specific circumstance. Review your facility’s pools and spas, and schedule improvements. Safety should always be at the top of the to-do list for opening commercial facilities this season — and every season.