How Some States Are Proactively Preventing Pool Drownings
Over a year ago Rockville, New York was one of the first town boards to consider passing a “pool fence law” in an effort to reduce drownings in personal swimming pools. The motion was originally discussed as far back as October 2012 and included a bit of an incentive for homeowners who now needed to comply with the new law. Originally any homeowners who lived on a corner lost a lot of space when installing pool fencing and many homeowners were raising concerns. Trustee Edward Oppenheimer originally said: “We find that homeowners who live on corner properties lose a lot of space, especially when they have pools. We want to allow that fence to come out only three feet of the property line, which will give the owner a larger yard.” At the time Deputy Mayor Nancy Howard agreed with the provision, but she later clarified that the number one concern was to improve public safety and keep children safe from drownings.
It’s been more than a year since that discussion in Rockville and specifics for pool barriers have been published on the NY State website. The document is available for download and entitled “Current Requirements for Swimming Pools Contained in the State Fire Prevention and Building Code“ The specifics in the document cover exactly what homeowners need to do in order to make sure their pool barrier is up to safety standards.
Here’s a quick summary of the specifics as outlined in the document above:
- The barrier must completely surround, and obstruct the swimming pool
- Barrier height must be at least 4ft high
- A building wall can form part of the required barrier. However, where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, at least one of the following requirements must be satisfied:
- the pool must be equipped with a powered safety cover
- all doors with direct access to the pool through that wall must be equipped with an alarm or other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, which are approved by the governing body
- In the case of an above-ground pool:
- the barrier may be at ground level or mounted on top of the pool structure; however, if the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, the space between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the barrier cannot exceed 4 inches.
- the pool structure itself can serve as a part of the required barrier, provided that the pool structure is sufficiently rigid to obstruct access to the pool. However, where an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then:
- the ladder or steps shall be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier
- when the ladder or steps are secured, locked or removed, any opening created shall not allow the passage of a 4-inch-diameter sphere.
- Barriers shall be located so as to prohibit permanent structures, equipment or similar objects from being used to climb the barriers.
It still too early to see what kind of safety data may emerge from this type of legislation but New York State is hopeful that they will see a decreasing amount of swimming pool drownings and deaths. Town’s like Rockville continue to give more incentive to homeowners to install compliant pool fencing but above all safety should be the primary concern. New York is leading the push to improve pool safety. In addition to the required pool fencing they are also starting to require additional security precautions including:
- regulations for pool alarms
- regulations for suction equipment in pools
- regulations for entrapment avoidance
- regulations for temporary barriers during pool construction
- regulations on pool heaters and backflow prevention
About the author
Gerald Berkowitz is a Chester County, PA business attorney specializing in commercial litigation, contract disputes, and execution on commercial judgments.