Update:  Virigina Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act

"REGARDING VGB [ACT], there are three key takeaways for all pool professionals, whether you are involved with public or residential pools," asserted Barnes. "Always have a VGB Act-compliant cover in place on the pool; make sure the cover(s) has a flow rate that combined can handle the actual flow potential of the pool; and make sure the cover is compatible with the pool, structure and existing sump."

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New Drain Cover Standard Goes
into Effect November 24, 2020

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) announced in February 2020 the publication of its updated ANSI/APSP/ICC-16 2017 American National Standard for Suction Outlet Fitting Assemblies (SOFA) for Use in Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This approval was originally published in the Federal Register on May 24, 2019 in Vol. 84, No. 101 and will go into effect on November 24, 2020, the 18-month deadline specified by the PHTA-16 Standard Writing Committee (SWC) that includes CPSC Staff representation.

“Providing a smooth transition is a very high priority for everyone involved,” said PHTA-16 SWC Chair Steve Barnes. “Unlike 2007, this revision is not retroactive. Instead it is a product manufacturing deadline.”

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGBA) is a federal law which requires all public pools and spas, both new and existing, to be equipped with compliant suction outlet fitting assemblies. Under the VGBA, drain covers manufactured on or after November 24, 2020 will be required to comply with this standard. In the meantime, products certified to one of the prior versions of the standard will continue to be compliant until they expire, or the product is damaged or degraded in any way. It is important to note, this only applies to products that were installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and are in full compliance with the VGBA. Non-compliant installations are not grandfathered and must be replaced before the pool can be opened to users.

“The PHTA fully recognizes the importance of this standard the only aquatics industry standard referenced under any federal law. We are working closely with test labs, regulators, and manufacturers to provide certification consistency across all SOFA ­product categories,” Barnes added. “These important changes to the VGB Act will help improve public safety, which is everyone’s top priority.”

This standard establishes materials, testing, use, installation, and marketing requirements for new or replacement bather-accessible suction outlet fitting assemblies, that are designed to be fully submerged for use in any pool. It contains changes to physical testing requirements, new definitions and new labeling requirements for the drain cover, an update to the foreword, a non-mandatory Appendix E to help manufacturers, test laboratories and registered design professionals achieve more consistent certification results and a non-mandatory Appendix F to outline specific sections beyond the authority of the CPSC.

The ANSI/APSP/ICC-16 2017 standard is available in print and PDF versions. Purchase your copy today at PHTA.org/Store.


The Virginia Graeme Baker Act: 
A look back and a look ahead

In December 2013, the Federal mandates in the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Act  went into effect, including the requirement that

  • All suction fitting assemblies or drain covers manufactured or sold comply with the applicable Standard (now ANSI/APSP-16); and
  • All commercial pool and spa drains must have new VGB certified covers.

The standard also requires that manufacturers determine a life expectancy and place a permanent mark on each unit with “Life: X Years” to indicate lifespan. Many manufacturers have designated a life span of 5 years.

Others have designated longer or shorter periods. Since numerous fittings were installed in 2008 and early 2009, many have or are about to reach the end of their stated life expectancy and need to be replaced before the start of the 2014 season and subsequently again in 2019.

As with the original fittings, each replacement unit must be compatible with the existing frame and sump, and have a flow rating equal or greater than the maximum system flow.  All units should be installed by an industry professional, in accordance with manufacturer instructions.  

Builders and installers are strongly encouraged to contact their public and residential customers.  This presents an excellent opportunity to reconnect with original customers, review the pool/spa circulation system, as well as the integrity of the existing frames.

NESPA would also like to remind all service companies opening swimming pools and spas to first check the drain cover(s) is securely fastened.  If missing, broken or loose, immediate action should be taken to repair or replace.  Replace only with ANSI/APSP – 16 2011 or ASME/ANSI A 112.19.8-2007VGB approved drain covers that can accommodate the proper flow rate for the pool or spa.

Remember the 2008 VGB Pool and Spa Safety Act made it mandatory for all drain covers and single main drain public pools to be equipped and retrofitted with proper entrapment prevention systems.  For residential pools, CPSC staff still recommends replacing old drain covers with new compliant covers, even though it is not required under the law.

For those companies servicing or repairing pools or spas without compliant covers and with single main drains, NESPA recommends that you fully inform your customers in writing that their pool or spas does not meet VGB requirements as well as current state codes and that they understand possible risks of entrapment.

If a residential pool needs to be drained to do any service or repair, take that opportunity to replace old non-compliant drain covers with VGB approved covers and sumps.  Keep in mind there are a number of options for those single drain pools and spas to be retrofitted to prevent any entrapment injuries or mishaps.