Swimming pool safety

Building Code Requirements for
Swimming Pools Essential to Safety of Children

A FENCE must enclose pools containing 24 or more inches of water depth at any point. Construction of a fence is the responsibility of the owner of the land which has the swimming pool on it.

Exceptions are made only when an above-ground pool is four feet or higher from the ground at all points. However, when a portable ladder is used for entry into this pool, thus making it accessible to small children, a fence with self-closing and self-latching gate is required. Latch must be 48" high on inside or 52" on outside.

It is possible in such a case, to enclose only the access area to the ladder, removing access to the above-ground pool to small children.

When an above-ground pool is on land that varies in grade, allowing children access at one point, a fence attached to the pool where it is less than four feet from the ground, will comply with the code requirements.

The code is very specific about the required pool enclosures, the acceptable design of fence, gates and latches. It states that "the enclosure shall be not less than four feet above the underlying ground. All gates shall be self-closing and self-latching, with latches placed four feet above the under-lying ground".

It requires also that "the fence around the pool shall be sound and secure and of sufficient strength to restrain children from entering the pool. The design of the fence shall be as such that young children cannot climb it and a sphere with a diameter of inches cannot pass through the opening".

Pool owners wishing to substitute a natural barrier for a fence, whether it is a "hedge, pool cover" or any other protective device to be used in lieu of a fence enclosure, are required to provide "no less protection" than a fence with self-latching gate. Any property owner wishing to make such a substitute must seek a modification from the Bureau of State Building inspector. The site must be inspected and the decision as to the safety of the barrier and whether it qualifies for a modification of the code requirements, will be made to the State Building Inspector and the Codes and Standards Committee.

The code requirement is met if the entire pool area is enclosed with a fence not less than four feet high. It must have a self-closing and self-latching gate, with latches placed four feet above ground.

In some situations, the entire pool is enclosed by a fence that reaches all the way to the house. In this case, the door from the house that opens to the pool area, must be self-closing and self-latching as well as the outside gate to the fence.

There are specific code requirements that address pool associates meters and how they must be grounded. Information about these requirements and some of the exceptions that are allowed, is available from Larry Acquaruio, Bureau of State Building inspector, 238-6011.

Supposed "safety devices" such as thermal blankets and pool covers, claimed by some to provide security, can actually make it more difficult for someone to get out after slipping into the pool. These should be used only to fulfil a specific function and have no relation to safety.