While lifeguards serve on the front lines in the effort to protect swimmers, some crucial work is done in the background, too.

Perhaps unbeknownst to many in aquatics, Steve Barnes has played a key role in determining how pools and spas are built, and how some manufactured products are made and tested.

Barnes serves as chairman of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals Technical Committee, which manages and reviews the organization’s various technical standards, and the individual writing committees for each.

In the volunteer position, he works on several of the standard-writing committees he directs. Since 2014, he has chaired a crucial one — the ANSI/APSP-16 committee, which writes and updates the drain-cover standard used to determine compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. In this capacity, he has studied such critical details as how big the grate openings can be without risk of fingers getting stuck in them, how hair enters and becomes tangled in the drain, and how big a drain must be so it can't be blocked by an adult body. And he helped develop the test methods to make sure these products meet the requirements.

He also played a key role in developing ANSI/APSP-7 Standard for Suction Entrapment Avoidance and the organization’s first energy-efficiency standard.

Since 2017, he is one of the leaders in an effort to unify requirements between APSP’s standards with those of the Model Aquatic Health Code, to avoid conflicting codes.

Other important projects include a study of six San Antonio city pools to learn the impact of various energy-efficiency measures on commercial pools. The results were presented before the 2015 World Energy Engineering Congress.

In his day job, Barnes serves as director of science and compliance for San Diego-based AquaStar Pool Products. He has also worked as safety and compliance manager at Sanford, N.C.-based equipment manufacturer Pentair Aquatic Systems, and worked research and development posts for in-floor pool cleaner manufacturers. For two years, he owned a company that designed pool products. He holds 21 patents.

Barnes himself was entrapped in a public pool at 13, so he understands the importance of his work. A big part of the job is bridging together individuals with conflicting needs or goals, whether it be with industry competitors, or public officials and safety advocates with builders and manufacturers.

But he first finds the common ground. “I have yet to meet anyone who wants to hurt someone intentionally,” Barnes says. “We all have that common goal.”