On December 19, 2007, the President signed into law the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, named after the daughter of Nancy Baker and the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker.  Graeme Baker died in an incident in June 2002 after the suction from a spa drain entrapped her under the water.  The requirements of the Act is a safety rule under the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

There is an annual average of 283 drowning deaths (2003-2005) and 2,700 emergency room-treated submersion injuries (2005-2007) involving children younger than 5 in pools and spas.  In addition, from 1997-2007, there were 74 reported incidents associated with suction entrapment, including 9 deaths and 63 injuries.  The new law is aimed at reducing these deaths and injuries by making pools safer, securing the environment around them, and educating consumers and industry on pool safety.

The Act specifies that on or after December 19, 2008, swimming pool and spa drain covers available for purchase in the United States must meet specific performance requirements.  Additionally, public swimming pools, wading pools, spas and hot tubs must meet requirements for installation of compliant drain covers.  New drain covers which meet the current standard are now beginning to make their way into the marketplace.  Additionally, in certain instances, public pools and spas must have additional devices or systems designed to prevent suction entrapment.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department does not enforce the Virginia Graeme Baker Act.  For Many pools to comply with the Act, modifications will need to be made to the main drain system.  Many of these modifications will require plan review and approval by the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department prior to construction because the modification will involve work that is regulated by the design standards as outlined in West Virginia State Code.

This Department will be requiring documentation of compliance with the Act beginning December 19, 2008.  Facilities that are not operating at that time will be required to be in compliance at the time they open.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department website will be updated as new information becomes available.  Please contact Lock Johnson, RS at (304) 234-3682 with any questions or concerns regarding this Act and your facility’s compliance.

Listed below are links to various documents that pool operators, suppliers, service providers, and contractors may find useful in complying with the new law.

1. Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act


2.  Interpretations on the Pool and Spa Safety Act (Section 1404) from the U.S. CPSC


3. The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals


4. Consumer Product Safety Commission


5.  West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources