Early this year, President George W. Bush signed the first-ever federal pool and spa safety legislation the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. And experts agree that more federally mandated legislation of its kind is bound to follow.
The new law mandates entrapment-proof drain covers and main drains. It also establishes a grant program of approximately $4 million that gives money to states that pass laws addressing drowning and entrapment issues. An additional $25 million has been allotted to created an educational outreach program by 2012. Final amounts, though, will not be guaranteed until Congress officially makes the allocation during future budget hearings.
The Act requires all public pools to have ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-compliant main drain covers, with the exception of those with dual main drains. The law comes after a long line of litigious activity prompted by near-drowning and entrapment incidents in the past year. That includes the law?s namesake, 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker, who died in 2002 after becoming trapped underwater at a summer pool party. Former Secretary of State James Baker III was the child?s grandfather and helped the grieving family turn the tragedy of their loss into the legislation that many expect will save lives in the near future.
The deadline for compliance with the new law is Dec. 19 of this year. Those who don?t comply could face a penalty of up to $1.8 million and possible imprisonment and criminal fines if a ?willful violation? ruling is reached. However, pools that are closed during the winter are excused until they reopen for the swim season.
Industry pros are hopeful that this new umbrella legislation will help stem entrapment incidents by encouraging states to enact their own laws that further protect against such dangers. It also has inspired manufacturers to pour a great deal of effort into determining whether their products comply, and having them tested.
?This legislation is an extremely important piece of the puzzle,? says Johnny Johnson, president of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. But, he warns, ?It?s only one part of the formula. I hope it will raise awareness and spur further conversation and action? regarding safety issues.
Using the law?s requirements as a starting point, those in the aquatics field hope it will inspire a further look at what the industry can do to further ensure swimmer safety.
?There has never been a more important time in our field to train team members so they know hazards and can act to prevent them,? adds Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation.