by Myles McMorrow, August 12, 2009
The Virginia Graeme Baker law has now been in effect for seven months now and pools are still struggling to comply with the law. Much of this is due to people not knowing of the law aimed to make swimming pools safer from the issue of main drain entrapment.
There have been 83 reported entrapment incidents reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commision from 1999 through 2008. Of these were eleven fatality reports, including the sad accident that ended the life of Virginia Graeme Baker in 2002. There were 69 injury reports associated with main drains in that time frame from 1999 to 2008.
Many states agree with the law but have neglected to pass state laws to enforce it . According to Kathleen Reily of the CPSC, this is "red tape" and will take some time to enact and set aside funding for enforcement. Even though this is a Federal law that will make pools safer, I have heard of county health inspectors looking the other way when it comes to the law. This is not a good idea ~ to let kids swim when there is a chance of injury. This is a law that should be enforced at all costs if the point is to save lives.
Many public or semi-public pools have not even heard of the law or they lack funds to upgrade their pool in order to comply to the VGB pool and spa safety act. This has kept a lot of pools closed this summer (numbered in the thousands) while others pretned that there is no law ~ leaving an unsafe drain that could cause injury.
What people that are running pools with unsafe drains need to think about are the ramifications if an incident were to happen. I can see this playing out in the near future. Let me put this in perspective for those not complying:
*The maximum fine is $1.8 million for not being compliant. (enough to bankrupt most pools and hotels)
*If there was anything to happen and there was an injury or death you will face a bigger law suite (and most likely lose). The largest settlement to date in a main drain litigation was won by John Edwards for the sum of 25 million dollars.
*If you think your insurance company will stand behind you and fight for you and/or pay out, think again. You were not complying with a Federal mandated law, and negligence will fall on the pool owner / operator.
Although the enforcement of the law is lagging the day will come soon. There is already a law suit in Pennsylvania in a main drain entrapment case where a man died in a pool that did not have a compliant cover. The cost of a VGB compliant main drain cover depending on the pool and drain size is as low as $20 for common drains. Prices for larger main drain covers and VGB compliant main drain grates have come down in recent months.
Home owners should consider to change their covers to make thier pools safer for family and friends. Most home pools have drains where the new coves are only under $50. Home pools and spas are where most entrapments happen. Some states have gone beyond the federal and enacted stricter laws, Minnesota being one. The Abigail Taylor Pool & Spa Safety Act was named after a Minnesota girl who was disemboweled by a missing drain cover in a wading pool. Abigail Taylor literally had her guts sucked out when she sat on the coverless drain in less then 18 inches of water. Taylor lost 21 feet (6.4 m) of her small intestine in the accident. She died nine months after the accident due to complications. She was two months short of her seventh birthday.
Poolcenter.com believes in this law and recommends the homeowner take the initiative and change your drain covers to prevent the unexpected accident related to mains drains to make your pool safer for everyone.