Pool and Spa Safety Requirements

Children are not waterproof.  In the United States an average of 10 people unintentionally drown each day.  Drowning is the leading cause of death for U.S. children between the ages of 1 to 4 years of age.

Whether or not you have a child, or if someone else’s child may gain access your yard and pool, since 1998 California law required all new or remodeled pools and spas to have at least one approved safety measure such as a fence, pool cover, or alarm, to reduce injuries and deaths pursuant to The Swimming Pool Safety Act.

Recently, as of January 1, 2018 (as per Senate Bill 442, Newman), all new or remodeled pools and spas are now required to have at least two of these safety measures.  Home inspectors are required by law to inspect and verify the presence of at least two pool and space safety measures.

A generalized list of pool safety measures are provided below.  For more specifics, and to review the precise requirements, please refer to California Health and Safety Code §115920 et seq..

  1. Permanent fencing which separates the residence from the pool or spa as specified.  The fencing is required to be at least 60 inches high, not be easily climbable, gates open away from the body of water, gates are self-closing and self-latching and not subject to being opened by small children, not have any gaps 2 inches or more at the bottom, and prevent a sphere 4 inches or larger form passing through any part of the barrier system. 
  2. Removable Mesh Fence which meets ASTM specifications F2286 standards, and provided full 360 degree barrier protection of the body of water, at a minimum height of 48 inches, with self-latching and self-closing gates which open out away from the body of water, a locking device which can accommodate a key lock which is a minimum of 54 inches above grade and a latch which is no lower than 45 inches above grade immediately outside of the gate.
  3. Safety Pool Cover, either manual or automated, as specified by lengthy statutory requirements which are too lengthy to cover here.  It is recommended that pool safety covers be evaluated by a licensed pool / spa contractor.
  4. Exit alarms on doors and windows which may provide access to a pool or spa.
  5. Self-closing and self-latching devices, located 54 inches or higher, installed on all doors which provide direct access to the pool or spa.
  6. Pool and spa alarm which emits a loud sound upon detection of any accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water by meeting ASTM Standard F2208 “Standard Safety Specification for Residential Pool Alarms”.  These pool and spa safety alarms may detect surface water disruption by pressure, sonar, laser, and/or infrared technology.  Not all alarms are approved or suitable as safety devices, and individual proximity or submersion alarms which are designed to be attached to people are not approved devices. 
  7. Other means of protection may be approved as technology and commercial availability changes.  However, at the time of this article no other approved devices exist.  Future devices must provide a degree of protection equal to or greater than that afforded by any of the features described above, and must be independently verified by an approved testing facility as meeting standards for those features established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or ASTM (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials).

Whether or not you agree with or want to comply with having multiple pool safety measures in place, this is all about preventing injury and death to children.  If child safety does not motivate you, then keep one other thing in mind:  a dead child never loses in court (but your financial losses could be catastrophic).