Is Common Sense Drowning?

In the past few years the swimming pool industry has experienced an aggressive use of mandates of swimming pool codes without the inclusive interests of all stakeholders in the aquatic industry. The Virginia Graeme Baker Act cost the swimming pool industry hundreds of millions of dollars and there are new challenges that the current language does not go far enough. The Dept. of Justice has reinterpreted the ADA code for portable lifts “no longer applicable” for their intent. The Model of Aquatic Health Code public process is getting significant feedback from industry manufactures that may have their own agenda in mind and not benefiting from the collective wisdom of all stakeholders (owner/operators, designers, users, health code officials). These examples bring to question are we able to apply best practices to raise the standard of care and experience for aquatic patrons in the United States or will this effort be hijacked to promote narrowly focused agendas?

The swimming pool industry does not have one voice resulting in a fractured and frustrating process. Often the stakeholders that are impacted and most knowledgeable have no voice with limited time / financial resources to invest in lobbying efforts both at the authoring and approval stage. As a result, those that have the most to gain financially make the required investments to influence the outcome. The owner operator is left to comply in a constrained time period; only to have the codes reinterpreted a short while later.

When the Virginia Graeme Baker Act went into effect, the swimming pool industry literally scrambled to comply. Pools across the nation had to order and install new products, which hadn’t yet been designed. Numerous existing pools were closed due to unavailable parts, thus losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. This past fall the definition of an unblockable drain was redefined requiring additional. What you may not know is that there is a well-organized effort for additional substantive changes to the current VGB language that would require SVRS technology on all main drains. The logic seems to be that if the drain is not compliant and breaking the law, the industry needs to provide additional protection to protect the user. Where does common sense enter this discussion? Where is the research and data to justify such a distraction of national resources away from the benefits of swimming to the equipment centered approach.

There are other changes on the horizon including the recent tug of war between the Department of Justice and the Senate regarding the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act on commercial pools and spas. Other owner/operator requirements maybe in store through the 2012 International Swimming Pool & Spa Code and a separate effort being led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention known as the Model Aquatic Health Code.

With the recent emphasis on more industry mandates we must not lose our focus on teaching people to swim and how to use our treasured community assets to grow families and promote healthy lifestyles. Without the application of common sense, other scrambles maybe on the way? More lost revenue? More owners fearful of maintaining and building pools?


It’s time we step up and make our voices heard in editorial and educational ways. As owner’s operators and designers, we know our industry. We know safety. We know design. Let’s use common sense and fact based science to promote what’s best for the industry instead of financial gain. Each one of us needs to make it a priority in time and money to participate in the ASTM, NSF, MAHC, CPSC, ICC/APSP decision making process. These groups don’t have the day to day experience of the owners / operators and they desperately need our collective wisdom to do what’s best for the industry.


5 Comments to Is Common Sense Drowning?

  1. April 16, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Much needs to be done in the safety direction.
    Great post, food for thought.

  2. April 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I think our human nature is that when placed under threat – like weathering a recession that saw pool constructions and hot tub purchase numbers plummet, greater competition in the service trade – many have a tendency to look down and focus on trying to maintain their existing business. This is pretty understandable since we still have to put food on the table, pay the mortgage/rent, and support the kids. It is almost instinct. Business books describe the Maslow hierarchy were we have to focus on our basic needs (survival, food & shelter), before we focus on our higher needs (play, love, engaging in regulatory processes).

    I think you are on the mark. We need to think about engagement and compliance to standards as a “core need” as a “survival need.” Ultimately, if regulations continue to be implemented that take a billion dollars (300,000 public pools x $ 3,500 each to comply with VGB) away from the facility creating value in the community (the pool) and shift those resources to the manufacturer and service company, then the entire field is put in jeopardy. After all, if we don’t have people people enjoying pools, it won’t be long before we don’t have pools.


  3. Michael Garland
    April 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Scott, your comments are spot on. There has to be a concerted effort to gain a common sense driven voice for our industry that at the end of the day provides the ultimate goal of providing opportunities for people to learn to swim and to enjoy all the benefits that swimming has to offer.

  4. Tom Saldarelli
    April 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Your points are on target. Credibility is so important in the growth of aquatics. In addition to your suggestions, we need an industry representative involved in this process who does not have ties to a specific company. This will offer the expertise that is required without a perception of a conflict of interest.

    Tom Saldarelli

  5. Jerry Ternes
    May 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Scott, I’m in full agreement with your thoughts in this matter. We’ve got lots of folks stepping out of their comfort zones getting involved in areas of commercial pools which they don’t fully understand, mostly out of necessity due to effects of the current economy. This reflects poorly on the industry as a whole. Giving the appearance that either we don’t care or are unable to regulate our industry. It’s important that our industry represents ourselves to the consumer as professionals, informed and able to not only carry out state and federal initiatives but provide for a pleasent and safe enviornment for all types of aquatics shared and enjoyed by all.

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