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How the Drain Cover Law Updates Affect Your Business

Johan Siebke/Alamy Stock Photo Detail of mosaic tile floor and drain cover in a swimming pool seen through rippled water.
The Virginia Graeme Baker standards impact anyone who’s installing, designing or servicing pools, spas or hot tubs. Here’s what you need to know to comply according to one industry expert.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Act, intended to eliminate the hazard of drain entrapment for pool users, has new standards to continue to upgrade pool safety. Here’s what you need to know, according to Steve Barnes, director of science and compliance at AquaStar and presenter of a recent VGBA webinar, sponsored by AquaStar.

The VGBA was introduced in 2007 by the federal government to save lives and prevent injuries. The law is named after Virginia Graeme Baker, who died in June 2002 when the suction from a spa drain entrapped her under the water.

Since then, there have been procedural updates to the act’s standards. The 2017 standards increased the number of tests that must be performed on the drains, including hair test approach time and hair testing to include all suction outlet fittings, Barnes said.

What should you know

Any drain covers manufactured after May 24, 2021, must be certified and installed to fully comply with VGBA 2017. In addition to the updated standards, all drains have new instructions concerning flow rates, pipe sizes and sump depths. You must follow the new instructions, as described on the product packaging, so that your installation is legal, Barnes said.

While manufacturers stopped producing the noncompliant covers, there are still some in use and being sold, so those must be certified and installed to comply with VGBA 2008, the old rules, according to Barnes. Since the old drain covers are still in use, there will be a multi-year transition to the VGBA 2017 standards.

What you should do about old drain covers

If your client has an old drain cover, that product is valid until its lifespan runs out. The new and noncompliant drain covers look the same; however, newly manufactured ones have a blue dot on the center and are stamped VGBA 2017.

While government enforcement of the VGBA has always been in place for public pools, there is no federal oversight for residential pools or spas; however, the changes for VGBA certification are still important, Barnes said. He encouraged residential pool business owners and service providers to “let homeowners know if they see a hazard with an outdated drain cover and to provide the homeowner with a quote to bring their pool up to date.”

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