by Rob Cox, Sept 29, 2011
VGB Update - CPSC reverses earlier decision
Virginia Graeme Baker, the namesake of the VGB Pool & Spa Safety Act of 2007, has her name in the news again regarding main drain safety in pools and spas. What has prompted this legislation was recent attention to drownings, near drownings and eviscerations (of the bowels...) by powerful main drains.
If a swimming pool has a single main drain pot, and the pool pumps suction is very powerful, a person - even a small person like Graeme, can block all of the suction holes on the drain cover, and be suctioned to the drain - at the bottom of the pool or spa. The suction of the spa drain was so great that it took several men to pull her off the drain, even after the pump was shut off. More
So, in 2007, our Congress passed the VGB Pool & Spa Safety Act, sponsored by her grandfather - former Secretary of State James Baker. Graeme, as she was called, was a local girl, along with her twin sister, here in our Northern Virginia community, and we were happy to see the bill enacted and this new lifesaving legislation in place.
The mandate was that commercial pools and spas (not residential) were now required to have a dual main drain system, typically. Two main drain pots, separated by several feet, is much more difficult to block. In addition to this requirement - new, safer main drain covers that were more difficult to block, an unblockable drain - were also mandated to be used at all public and semi-public pools. After 2008, sanctions for pools that were non-compliant included fines, or no government permit to open their pool to the public.
This past week, the CPSC redefined the definition of an unblockable drain, reversing an earlier decision made which allowed for installing a unblockable drain cover - on a blockable drain. Problem with that is, as pointed out in the thoughtful letter to the CPSC sent by Nancy Baker, the mother of Graeme - that drains break or work themselves loose, and then a grave danger exists. The high profile loss of Abigail Taylor and Zachary Cohn were due to missing drain covers. So - what good is an unblockable drain cover, if it can just come loose in a year or two and not be re-secured properly?
The new definition now focuses on unblockable main drains - forget about the cover, the drain itself - if a single drain, must be large enough so that it would be impossible for even a large person to block the water flow completely and become suctioned to the drain. I support the redesign of the VGB act, as being more true to the real intention of the law, that of preventing blockable drains in pools and spas.
As a result of the VGB Act, the CPSC reports that there have been no deaths due to entrapment in the U.S. since 2009. This strengthening of the requirements for pools and spas will place additional burdens on commercial pool budgets, but is necessary to continue this safety streak. Way to go, CPSC!
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