There’s no doubt the water-safety advocacy community has expedited its progress through increased collaboration. And that extends outside the realm of safety organizations and foundations.

The swimming pool industry, which used to sit on opposite sides of courtroom and legislative aisles from the water-safety community, has made serious inroads to aligning with the cause of drowning prevention. For example, through the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance’s Step Into Swim program, more manufacturers and pool builders, service companies and retailers contribute to the goal of providing free swimming lessons. And some safety groups have begun exhibiting and teaching at swimming pool trade shows.

And, in his short tenure thus far, PHTA staffer Justin Wiley has made noticeable strides in bringing the two worlds together for the sake of pool/spa building codes and standards.

Crossing over

It makes sense that Wiley would help these two groups strengthen the bridge that joins them.

Out of college, he worked on political campaigns in Salt Lake City. As a council advisor to a member of the County Council, he was exposed to parks and recreation centers, land use and everything else the county oversees. From doing that, he moved to the International Code Council (ICC), the organization behind many of the model building codes that are adopted by states and municipalities. Through a consensus process, the ICC develops the language, then state and local governments choose to adopt them. The model codes then are updated at regular intervals. Through ICC, he was exposed to stakeholders of all stripes, including industries and consumer and safety advocates.

He started at ICC as a regional government relations manager and, about six months later, was promoted to director of external relations, moving to Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he dedicated a fair portion of his time building relationships with stakeholders. He then became vice president of government relations, planning and operations. In that position, he oversaw a team of regional government relations representatives who helped facilitate the adoption of the ICC around the country.

The ICC offers 15 codes, with one of them being the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code. With ICC, Wiley worked on this code, interfacing with all stakeholders, including the pool industry and water-safety advocates.

“I came from a culture that really valued safety,” Wiley says.

He remained with the organization for about 15 years. He then took an interest in aquatics.

“It was something where I thought I could make a difference, and an area I thought was very interesting,” Wiley says. “The more I dove into the statistics around drowning, [I realized] it was frankly shocking. So I thought there was really an opportunity to make a difference in developing safety standards, which PHTA does, as well as codes and getting them adopted and implemented.”

Toward the same goal

By the time he joined PHTA, most of the adversity between the pool industry and the water-safety advocacy community had been worked out and left in the past. Wiley brought his collaborative background to help continue developing these relationships.

As one of his first assignments, Wiley worked with various stakeholders to promote the reauthorization of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

“My approach to a lot of things is to do them very collaboratively and work with coalitions,” he explains. “My experience politically is not working for a major lobbying firm or corporations that have [plenty of manpower]. I’m very used to working with coalitions, and building that strength in numbers.”

Accomplishing that in any context requires listening more than talking, he says, but also proving the organization’s attention through action.

“We [in the swimming pool industry] want to do [business] in a safe and efficient manner, and insure there is safety across all aquatics venues,” he says. “I think conveying that to water safety advocates has helped — not only verbally but showing up at events, talking on panels shoulder-to-shoulder with advocates. We all want the same thing — supporting the progress of safety of water venues.”

The pool industry does that through the writing of codes and standards to be adopted by states and local governments, he says. And, with reach out efforts by Wiley, water-safety advocates have taken an interest in participating in the drafting of these codes. That’s why members of the water-safety community, such as The ZAC Foundation’s Megan Ferraro and Abbey’s Hope’s Alan Korn, recently joined committees that help oversee the writing and updating of standards such as the one cited in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act for drain covers. It’s something that Wiley expects to continue into the future.

“I look forward to those relationships continuing to strengthen,” he says. “We all want more safety in aquatic environments for swimmers.”