In 2007, the recreational aquatics industry was turned upside down as the dangers of swimming pool main drain entrapments made mainstream news. Seeing this as a serious health crisis, Congress enacted the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA), mandating that every public pool within the U.S. be equipped with main drain covers that meet the most recent standard named in the law.
At the 10-year anniversary of the VGBA, reports estimated a 17% decrease in entrapment fatalities. This illustrates how awareness and laws not only change the industry, but also save lives.
This article will help highlight the need for greater oversight and quality of components that come in direct contact with the general public, and to limit personal accident injuries from compromised and/or inferior products and additionally point out the need for continued risk management through annual inspection and maintenance. The focus here is on components above the waterline.
Perimeter Pool Grating
Because perimeter grating and tile have a high level of public interaction, they should be treated as a first line of defense in risk management.
First off, ensure that grating meets the safety requirements per ANSI/NSF/CAN–50 2020. This certification requires grate materials to be UV stabilized, corrosion-resistant, plus meet minimum criteria established to ensure that the materials do not contribute harmful contaminants to the water. Without NSF/ANSI/CAN 50 2020 certification, the grating may be prone to discolor, break down and release toxins into the water, and become brittle over time, increasing the chance of liability and personal injury.
Keeping on top of all these requirements is a task in itself. A system called HYDROAPPS offers digital solutions to assist with monitoring your safety and risk management requirements.
In the height of summer, pool grating will see literally a ton or more of pedestrian traffic. This is where grating is put to the test, exposed outdoors to weather conditions, both cold and hot; or indoors to humidity and constant chloramine exposure. Under these conditions, the product can become older and brittle, breaking easily under pressure and becoming a hazard. The potential for grate breakage is exacerbated by retractable pool cover reels, where covers that become increasingly heavy when saturated with water; the frequent use of weighty water polo goals being moved in and out of the water; and traffic from maintenance carts and other light vehicles.
All grating should be inspected regularly for discoloration, cracks, breakage or missing grate pieces to prevent injuries. This inspection should be performed even more frequently pre-summer and during summer when in high use.
At the earliest sign of deterioration or breakage, the grating should be removed and replaced immediately. Just as is required with ANSI/APSP/ICC 16-2017, now the code reference to VGB compliant main drain grate covers, each inspection shouId be documented and noted to exhibit a proactive approach to avoiding product failure and preserve public safety.
Preparing in advance for a regular 10-year perimeter pool grating replacement to mitigate personal injury risk makes a good budget decision.
Pool Perimeter Areas
Check other areas around the pool to make sure they do not pose a hazard to swimmers.
• General deck surfaces: Concrete, stone, tile, rubber and other materials should undergo a similar check as the perimeter grating and tile. They should be inspected for breakages and degradation — as well as slip resistance. Where compromised, material should be replaced.
• Deck drainage systems: Clean these out so they are effective in drainage. Grate coverings should be of UV stabilized PVC to avoid burning of the bare foot by metallic grates. These grates also should meet NSF/ANSI/CAN 50 2020 for material quality when possible.
• Pool stair entries, slide entries, beach entries: Check for breakages and degradation, slip resistant material quality. Immediately replace anything that may cause injury to small, wet bare feet.
• Lane ropes, anchors, etc.: Lane ropes, when not in use, should always be on an appropriate storage reel and covered to preserve longevity. Check for breakage and degradation. Replace broken parts as soon as they appear.
• Miscellaneous deck structures and pool entries: Apply all of the above.
Record Keeping and Documentation
A key aspect of risk management and inspections are to maintain accurate records, dates, certifications, warranties, ANSI/APSP/ICC 16-2017 paperwork, life cycle and certifications, warranties, installation dates and life cycles of products under NSF/ANSI/CAN 50 2020.
A highly detailed spreadsheet of accurate information will provide protection from litigation, as well as help future operators and health inspectors perform their jobs.