Pool Fence

Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (VGBA) is a United States law named after the daughter of Nancy and James Baker and the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III. Graeme Baker died in a tragic incident in June 2002 when the suction from a spa drain entrapped her under the water. The Act was first introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and was supported by the Baker family and Safe Kids Worldwide.


Consumer Product Safety Commission staff began investigating reported incidents of swimming pool/spa suction entrapment incidents in the 1970s. Such incidents included entrapment of hair, body, limb, evisceration or disembowelment and mechanical entrapment of jewelry or bathing suits. From 1999 to 2007 for all age categories records were examined. In 2007, for all age categories, there were 74 reports of circulation entrapments. Individuals in the 5- to 9-year-old category had the highest frequency of entrapment reports.

74 reports of circulation entrapments in 2007
Pool/Spa     Deaths     Injuries
Public             2              20
Residential     7              33
Unknown        0              10

Male           4      28
Female      5      35

The goals of the VGBA were to enhance the safety of public and private pools and spas, to reduce child drownings, to reduce the number of suction entrapment incidents, injuries and deaths; and to educate the public on the importance of constant supervision of children in and around water.

Federal Requirements

There is a Federal requirement for public pools that preempts the state or local law, as of Dec. 19, 2008. and further regulations are in addition to it: Sec. 1404: Top Priority for Public Pool And Spa Owners/Operators All pool/spa drain covers manufactured, distributed or entered into commerce on or after December 19, 2008 must meet ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007. All public pools and spas must be retrofitted with covers that meet the ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007 standard. All public pools and spas that have a single drain other than an unblockable drain must employ one or more additional options.

State Requirements

A pool contractor should verify that the pool and / or spa is in compliance with the federally mandated Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act which takes effect December 19, 2008. If the pool is not in compliance, the necessary steps should be taken to comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, that, in essence, specifies that:
All public pools and spas, both new and existing, shall be equipped with drain covers compliant with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 2007 standard. In addition, all public pools and spas with a single main drain other than an un-blockable drain, shall also employ one or more of the following devices: separated drain system per ANSI/APSP 7, safety vacuum release system (SVRS) that complies with ANSI/ASME A112.19.17 or ASTM F2387; suction-limiting vent system; gravity drainage system; automatic pump shutoff; drain disablement; equivalent system determined by the CPSC. The definition of un-blockable drain in the Act is a drain sump of any size or shape that a human body cannot sufficiently block to create a suction entrapment issue.

Compliant Drain Covers

The VGBA requires all drain covers to either be manufactured products or to be field fabricated outlets, in each case meeting the specific technical requirements of the act and having the necessary certification. The PSSA requires a safe & secure connection between the cover and sump. A new, compliant cover that fits securely into a pre-existing sump is accepted under certain conditions.

SVRS Devices

These are used in conjunction with an approved main drain cover and skimmer. They come in 3 main varieties:

  • 1)Mechanical devices which let air into pump to ease the vacuum when entrapment or blockage is sensed by device.
  • 2)Electro-mechanical devices that shut off pump when blockage/entrapment is sensed.
  • 3)Pumps or motors with built-in software that shuts off pump when blockage/entrapment is sensed.