CPSC Clarifies Pool Drain Enforcement Plans

Being based in New York City, where we’re currently seeing a wet snowfall, my thoughts at this time of year typically do not revolve around swimming pools. Until today, when pool drains became front-page news that property managers need to take note of.Several press releases had alerted me to watch the “Today” show this morning, which was scheduled to run—and did broadcast—a report on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act and, in particular, Section 1404. This act was named in honor of Baker, who was the young granddaughter of former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III and died in 2002 when trapped on a drain in a private in-ground spa.Friday, December 19, 2008 is when new regulations for pools and spas go into effect. Specifically, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requires firms to install approved anti-entrapment devices such as drain covers. These regulations will be enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).Evidently, however, there is a shortage of approved products.Wisely, the CPSC today announced that, “For seasonal pools and spas that are currently closed, CPSC’s Office of Compliance has granted enforcement discretion that these facilities do not need to comply until the day they re-open in 2009.”  Jeanne McGlynn Delgado, vice president of business and risk management policy at the National Apartment Association/NMHC, tells MHN that NMHC and other organizations had recently met with CPSC staff and sent a letter to the Commission requesting an extension or recognition of good faith compliance efforts for owners unable to meet the deadline due to product or labor shortages. But, instead of offering broad relief, the CPSC prioritized its enforcement targets in a press release issued on Dec. 16, 2008, given what it termed “the significant and serious safety considerations.” According to the release, the CPSC will focus on what it considers high-risk pool and spa operations, such as those that children are most likely to use.Thus, CSPC announced that initial enforcement efforts will be directed at:• Baby pools,• Wading pools or those designed for toddlers and• In-ground spas where they use flat grate main drains and single main drain systems.Of course, the CPSC strongly encourages pool owners to continue their efforts to come into compliance as soon as possible. Plus, CPSC officials indicated that while they cannot direct the efforts of the states, they are hopeful they will adopt similar enforcement priorities. They also advised firms to also document all product and work orders, and if you operate one of the three priorities listed above, pay special attention to get them into compliance first.The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act was signed into law on December 19, 2007. CPSC’s press release continued: “We are aware that for many pool and spa owners, operators and installers, the production, availability and delivery of unblockable sized drain covers are the keys to your success. Others are facing the challenge of being on waiting lists for the services of a professional diver or awaiting approval of work plans by county or state officials.”  “Even though we fully support the goal of the Act, forcing public pools and spas to close has unexpected and undesirable consequence,” says Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., and CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). Suction entrapment claims about one to two victims per year based on historic data from the CPSC, the NSPF reports. In contrast, drowning claimed the lives of 761 children aged 14 and under in 2004 and those numbers may increase, since fewer children will attend swim lessons when pools are closed.Lachocki points out, “The Pool & Spa Safety Act budgets $5 million per year for an educational program requiring CPSC to establish and carry out education to the public pool service companies, pool facility owners, operators and others. No such programs exist. As a result, facilities are either unaware or confused about the requirements of the Act.”