Swimming pool drains pose a serious risk to swimmers of all ages, but especially to children. The suction from a pool drain can easily lead to the entrapment of hair, limbs, or accessories, like jewelry or bathing suit decorations. This is why pool owners must take care to ensure their drain covers comply with safety standards and are undamaged and installed correctly.
Specifically, pool drain covers in public pools must comply with the standards set forth by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. Under the Act, all public pools “shall be equipped with anti-entrapment devices or systems,” and “each public pool and spa in the United States with a single main drain other than an unblockable drain shall be equipped, at a minimum, with 1 or more of the following devices or systems designed to prevent entrapment by pool or spa drains,” including:
- Safety vacuum release system. A safety vacuum release system which ceases operation of the pump, reverses the circulation flow, or otherwise provides a vacuum release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected, that has been tested by an independent third party and found to conform to ASME/ANSI standard A112.19.17 or ASTM standard F2387.
- Suction-limiting vent system. A suction-limiting vent system with a tamper-resistant atmospheric opening.
- Gravity drainage system. A gravity drainage system that utilizes a collector tank.
- Automatic pump shut-off system. An automatic pump shut-off system.
- Drain disablement. A device or system that disables the drain.
- Other systems. Any other system determined by the Commission to be equally effective as, or better than, the systems described in subclauses (I) through (V) of this clause at preventing or eliminating the risk of injury or death associated with pool drainage systems.
Are residential pool owners required to follow the Act?
No, they are not. Residential pool owners must have pool drain covers, but they are not required to have any of the additional safety features in place. If your pool was installed after the Act passed in 2007, then your pool pump may be equipped with a safety vacuum release system (SVRS), but there is no guarantee that it is – and older pool pumps will not have this safety feature to guard against suction entrapment. Further, older pools are more likely to only have one pool drain, located at the deepest part of the pool.
What can residential pool owners do to make their pool drains safer?
According to PoolSafety.gov, “Old, unsafe drain covers are flat and create a strong circulation that can easily trap hair or a body part if they become blocked. New, safer drains are designed to be curved so that they can never be fully blocked by a body part.” As a residential pool owner, you should replace any old, flat drain covers you have with these newer domed covers as soon as possible, and consider adding “protectors that block the drain pipe underneath the cover so children’s hands and feet won’t get stuck inside.” You should also regularly inspect your drain cover to ensure it is not broken or loose.
If you had safety pool drain covers installed and they failed because of a defect in their design or manufacturing, and you or a loved one sustains an injury as a result, you could have grounds for a product liability claim.
Other tips for keeping your pool or spa safe
Aside from installing safety drain covers, there are other steps you can take to keep your residential pool or spa safe:
- Replace your pool or spa pump with an SVRS model.
- Keep the gate to your pool fence locked when the pool is not in use.
- Always supervise children who are using the pool; never let kids swim alone.
- Install an alarm sensor around the pool or spa, so that you are alerted if someone attempts to enter the area.
If you or a loved one were injured by a dangerous or defective pool drain cover, Phelan Petty can help. Please call 804-980-7100 or fill out our contact form. The firm is located in Richmond, and serves clients throughout Virginia.