Accidental drownings are the second leading cause of death in the United States for children between the ages of one and 14. In the year 2000, Florida had the highest drowning rate for children between the ages of one and five at 76 deaths, and the state’s leading cause of death in children between ages one and 14 at 90 children. Most of these incidents happened in backyard pools.
In 2016, 71 children died of accidental drownings between the ages of one to 14, and 54 between the ages of 1 and 5. The number of unintentional drownings in young children had dropped.
For 2017, 25 children died of accidental drownings, the highest in the nation. Second highest was California with 14, less than half of the Florida statistic. Yet, 25 drownings for all children is so much less than just the year before for younger children.
Beginning in the year 2000, both state and federal laws have been passed to encourage swimming pool safety. The following information refers to “pools” but includes swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs.
Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act
Because the state had such a problem with unintentional drownings, especially for children and the elderly, Florida passed this act in the year 2000. It requires an acceptable barrier to swimming pool entries be in place for all Florida residential pools.
There are four options from which to choose:
- An acceptable barrier or enclosure around the perimeter of the pool to isolate the pool from the home and yard with a self-closing, self-latching gate that opens away from the water, latches on the water side, and out of reach of small children.
- An approved manual or power-operated pool cover that meets the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
- An acceptable exit alarm with a continuous, audible sound on all doors and windows with direct access to an indoor pool, or a self-closing, self-latching device on all doors or gates with direct access to the indoor pool.
- An acceptable pool alarm, placed in the water, which signals when an accidental or unauthorized entry into the water occurs.
Additionally, before new construction begins, pool contractors must provide to owners the legal pool safety requirements and a publication that provides information on drowning prevention and pool ownership responsibilities.
Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act
This is a federal law, passed in December 2007, that addresses the possible death from entrapment with drain covers for pools.
The phrase “drain covers” refers to a complex assembly, the entire suction outlet fitting assemblies. It includes everything between the cover and the suction pipe, as well as some aspects of the circulation system.
The swimming pool safety law applies to both commercial and residential pools and requires:
- Drain covers not be beyond expiration date or their expected lifetime in years. If the installation is not sufficiently documented, it’s out of date.
- Covers must be appropriately fastened down according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- The water pump and circulation system’s flow potential must not exceed the rating of each drain.
- The sump depth, which is the distance between the drain cover’s underside and suction pipe opening, must be appropriate for the pool’s design.
Also called tanning shelves are now legal for both commercial and residential swimming pools. There are certain perimeters and circulation configurations that must be met to prevent shallow water from stagnating.
Commercial pools are heavily regulated by both the Florida Building Code and the Florida Health Department.
The latest legal changes for commercial pools include:
- Pool heaters cannot exceed a maximum temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If a pool remains open at night, both the pool and the pool deck must have proper lighting for swimmer safety.
- Plaster colors now must pass a light reflectance value analysis to ensure hues skew the light correctly.
- Non-skid tile already has been required for pool stairs. Now, it’s also required for tile around the horizontal surface and leading edge of the rollout gutter.
For more requirements for commercial pools, please see:
A state of Florida Plans Review Checklist for commercial pools can be found at
Palm Beach County regulations for commercial pools can be found at
Besides state and federal laws, Florida has more than 600 local building departments and 13 regional health departments. Additionally, each city and county may have their own legal requirements. Failure to meet legal requirements from any of these government agencies could incur criminal penalties. Pool Doctor knows all of the legal requirements and restrictions for West Palm Beach commercial and residential pools. We’re here to ensure you and your pools, spas, and hot tubs are in compliance.
Contact Pool Doctor of the Palm Beaches today to discuss all your pool construction and remodeling needs.
Pool Safely (Federal government campaign to protect children from accidental drowning in pools and spas). “VIRGINIA GRAEME BAKER POOL AND SPA SAFETY ACT (as amended)”. Accessed February 1, 2018. https://www.poolsafely.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/pssa.pdf.
Fla. Stat. § 515.21, “Preston de Ibern/McKenzie Merriam Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.” History.—s. 1, ch. 2000-143. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0515/0515ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2016&Title=-%3E2016-%3EChapte.
Fla. Stat. § 515.23-37.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “WISQARS Database.” Accessed March 21, 2018. https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate.html.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Latest Safety Pool Stats: At Least 163 Children Fatally Drowned in Pools and Spas This Summer.” Accessed March 21, 2018. https://www.cpsc.gov/Latest-Pool-Safely-Stats-At-Least-163-Children-Fatally-Drowned-in-Pools-and-Spas-This-Summer#.
Pool and Spa News. “Expect These Changes in Swimming Pool and Spa Drain Covers”. Accessed January 30, 2018. http://www.poolspanews.com/how-to/codes/expect-these-changes-in-swimming-pool-and-spa-drain-covers_o.
USA Today. “State of Florida Swimming Pool Laws.” Accessed March 15, 2018. http://traveltips.usatoday.com/state-Florida-swimming-pool-laws-62689.html.
Aquatics International. “In Florida, Pool Finishes Will Be Under Increased Scrutiny.” Accessed March 15, 2018. http://www.aquaticsintl.com/facilities/in-florida-pool-finishes-will-be-under-increased-scrutiny_s.