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Law Expands Safety Requirements For New Swimming Pools in California

Prayitno / Flickr

Prayitno / Flickr

This is part of our series on new California laws taking effect in 2018.

California swimming pools and spas built or remodeled starting in 2018 must have a second safety feature to protect children from drowning.

That’s the main requirement in a new law that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018 and aims to boost safety.

State law since 1998 has required new or remodeled pools and spas have at least one safety measure such as a fence, a cover or an alarm.

See list of safety features that comply with the new law here

Sad statistics

Drowning is the leading cause of death for California children ages one to four. From 2010 through 2015, more than 160 young children died of drowning in the state and more than 700 were hospitalized for near-fatal drownings, according to Steve Barrow, program director with the California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health.

Nadina Riggsbee of Benecia lost her 2-year-old daughter, Samira, to a pool drowning in 1978. Her 14-month-old son JJ also drowned. He survived but suffered severe brain damage.

Ever since, Riggsbee has advocated for pool safety and hopes the new law will prevent future tragedies.

“The main thing of course is we’re looking to drastically reduce — I don’t know that we’ll ever totally stop child drownings — but to drastically reduce this never-ending nightmare that’s been going on for years and years,” Riggsbee said. “Every time I turn around I hear about another one, another one and another one.”

Jennifer Rubin of the Safe Kids Greater Sacramento Coalition said one safety measure simply isn’t enough. Gates are left open, alarms are disabled and children can find out how to open pool covers.

“We are all well-meaning families and we know that we love our kids and don’t want them to get into the pool. But those first layers could fail and so that second layer is just going to give you a little more time,” Rubin said.

Home inspections

The new law, Senate Bill 442, would also require home inspectors to examine pools and spas and record in their reports which safety features, if any, are present when a home is sold.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure a year ago. Advocates for the law say they communicated additional personal stories when pushing for it this year and believe that made the difference. 

“When the families of victims came to me with ways to improve the outdated pool safety act, and thereby prevent others from experiencing the tragedies they had endured through the drowning or near-drowning of a child, I was moved to act,” Democratic State Sen. Josh Newman of Orange County, who introduced the bill in February, said in a recent news release.

“Residential pool drownings can be prevented, and SB 442 will go far toward reducing the pain and costs associated with pool drownings,” Newman added.

Safety features that comply with the new law, as outlined in Senate Bill 442:

  1. An enclosure that isolates the swimming pool or spa from the private single-family home.

  2. Removable mesh fencing that meets American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Specifications F2286 standards in conjunction with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching and can accommodate a key lockable device.

  3. An approved safety pool cover

  4. Exit alarms on the private single-family home’s doors that provide direct access to the swimming pool or spa. The exit alarm may cause either an alarm noise or a verbal warning, such as a repeating notification that “the door to the pool is open.”

  5. A self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor on the private single-family home’s doors providing direct access to the swimming pool or spa.

  6. An alarm that, when placed in a swimming pool or spa, will sound upon detection of accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. The alarm shall meet and be independently certified to the ASTM Standard F2208 “Standard Safety Specification for Residential Pool Alarms,” which includes surface motion, pressure, sonar, laser, and infrared type alarms. A swimming protection alarm feature designed for individual use, including an alarm attached to a child that sounds when the child exceeds a certain distance or becomes submerged in water, is not a qualifying drowning prevention safety feature.

  7. Other means of protection, if the degree of protection afforded is equal to or greater than that afforded by any of the features set forth above and has been independently verified by an approved testing laboratory as meeting standards for those features established by the ASTM or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

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