VGB Act continues to gain momentum in the pool and spa industry

Vgb 0809It seems you can't find a major pool story these days that doesn't pertain to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. National media giants like CNN and The New York Times and local news outlets publish items daily regarding public pools across the country that have been greatly affected by the Act's implementation last December.

Both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals are taking steps to make VGB compliance as smooth as possible, and what started out as a rocky beginning could finally be taking a turn toward some semblance of calm waters. But it'll continue to take commitment and patience from all those involved, says Kirstin Pires, director of communications for the APSP.

New Horizons

"Obviously people are complaining because all of the unintended consequences [of implementation] weren't taken into consideration," says Pires. "But the cool thing is that now the federal part is underway and the money has gotten to the CPSC. Now they can move forward toward the next part of the plan, which is grants to the states."

In the initial draft of the Act, it was estimated that nearly $4 million of funding over the course of the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years would be provided for the grants. While implementation began last December, Congress released the money only recently.

"The next parts of the federal act are that if the states enact safety requirements at the state level that meet the basic requirements of the federal law, then they are eligible for grants," says Pires.

The monies could be allotted for adding more compliance inspectors and even perhaps aiding government-owned facilities in paying for the costs associated with making the compliance changes.

Staying On Course

Renovation funds have been scarce, especially during these tight economic times. Many facilities didn't budget for the cost of compliance and are finding themselves in a dilemma: stay open without becoming compliant and risk being fined, or make the change and take the monetary lumps.

On the regulatory side, because the CPSC is a small agency, there have been concerns regarding who or what department is policing compliance.

"The CPSC is looking to leverage what the states can do," says Pires, "and again, with the grants, they are trying to see that local health officials are actually doing the enforcing."

Education Reigns

Both the APSP and the CPSC have released new tools to help facility operators better cope with implementation.

The APSP has a new field checklist, available at, that Pires likens to a map of how to make sure the pool is in compliance.

"This new field guide is going to be really helpful to people," she says. "Even though you have that ASME-certified and VGB-approved drain cover on, how do you know about the flow and that everything else is compliant?"

In addition, the APSP is sending out its heavy hitters to engage the industry in person. Carvin DiGiovanni, senior technical director, and Ray Cronise, technical committee member, have been touring the country, working with local chapters and health departments to make sure people are up to speed on what they need to do and to answer any questions.

The CPSP recently launched a new Web site,, completely dedicated to the Act. Visitors can access a variety of information from compliance issues to safety tips. It's basically a one-stop shop of all things VGB related.

"People should check the Web site for specific messages from the CPSC," says Pires. "And watch the APSP Web site for our sections on safety and standards. We're trying to keep that as updated as possible."

Moving Forward

Pires stresses the importance of understanding that while the government works slowly, it will get the job done.

"We're trying to help people as much as possible with our staff being out there and answering questions. And now that the money has been released from congress, the CPSC is really going to be able to do much more. And they already have done a lot more."

As implementation continues to push forward and the VGB Act works its way down to the state level, Pires says the APSP is focusing on its main goal.

"We're really pushing what we call the 'all states, all options' concept, meaning we want all states to adopt safety laws that are in line with VGB and ANSI-7. And because the states can adopt laws with slightly different requirements, we want states to adopt the 'all options' part of it so that you must have x number of layers of safety but you can choose which layers of safety you want to bring into compliance.

"We want to make sure that there are as many options as possible for creating a safe environment for states."

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