916.447.4113 info@thecpsa.org

Periodically, CPSA receives inquires and/or complaints about the how local building officials interpret the newly amended Pool Safety Act. In some cases, building officials have reportedly refused to allow one or more of the safety devises specified by the law; tried to mandate certain devises preferred by local officials; required builders to meet additional mandate; or divide safety devises into categories and require builders to choose one safety devise from each category.

CPSA has intervened in a number of these situations and has generally been successful in
working with local building officials in clarifying the application of the Act. As such, we felt it
was time to provide builders with a summary and explanation of the Pool Safety Act as it was
amended in 2017. It is hoped that this document can be a tool for builders and homeowners to
use in discussions with local building officials that might have a different interpretation of the
Act.

The original Pool Safety Act was enacted in 2006. It was the product of a two‐year battle over
legislation mandating that every pool be isolated from a residence by a fence around the pool.
Don Burns, the former President and lobbyist for CPSA, then known as SPEC, negotiated the
final language of the bill. Instead of a fence mandate, the legislature passed a bill that required
pool builders to install 1 of 7 devises to protect children from access to swimming pools or spas.

In 2016, advocates for the prevention of accidental childhood deaths sponsored a bill in the
California Legislature to amend the Pool Safety Act to require pool builders to install 2 of the 7
devises specified in the Act rather than 1. The rationale for this legislation was twofold. First,
drowning is still the leading cause of death for children ages 1‐4. Second, between 2010‐2015,
740 children ages 1‐4 were hospitalized after suffering a near‐drowning incident, with the
leading cause of hospitalization being brain injury due to lack of oxygen, also known as
asphyxiation. The cost to the State of California to care for these children runs in the tens of
millions of dollars annually.

CPSA initially opposed this bill. However, a compromise was reached when the author and
sponsors of the legislation agreed to repeal provisions of the law which allowed local entities to
enact ordinance more stringent than state law. In other words, cities and counties could enact
local ordinances requiring two or more safety devises, and some cities/counties did.

CPSA saw this as an opportunity to create a single statewide standard. With that in mind, CPSA
signed off on the bill. Governor Brown vetoed the bill in 2016 but after heavy lobbying by
families of children who drowned or have been disabled due to a near drowning incident, he
agreed to sign SB 442 in 2017.

So, what is the law today and how should it be applied?

Health and Safety Code Section 115922 and Section 115925 governs the issue of what barriers
or enclosures a homeowner and/or pool contractor is required to install to protect children
from unsupervised access to swimming pools and spas. This statute, as most recently amended
by SB 442 (Chapter 670), requires a pool homeowner or contractor to install at least two safety
devices from a list of seven options.

Section 115922 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:

(a) Except as provided in Section 115925, when a building permit is issued for the construction
of a new swimming pool or spa or the remodeling of an existing swimming pool or spa at a
private single‐family home, the respective swimming pool or spa shall be equipped with at
least two of the following seven drowning prevention safety features:

  1. An enclosure that meets the requirements of Section 115923 and isolates the swimming
    pool or spa from the private single‐family home.
  2. Removable mesh fencing that meets American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)  Specifications  F2286  standards  in  conjunction  with  a  gate  that  is  self‐closing  and  self‐ latching and can accommodate a key lockable device.
  3. An approved safety pool cover, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 115921.
  4. Exit alarms on  the private single‐family home’s doors  that provide direct access  to  the  swimming pool or spa. The exit alarm may cause either an alarm noise or a verbal warning,  such as a repeating notification that “the door to the pool is open.”
  5. A  self‐closing,  self‐latching  device  with  a  release mechanism  placed  no  lower  than  54  inches above the floor on the private single‐family home’s doors providing direct access  to the swimming pool or spa.
  6. An  alarm  that,  when  placed  in  a  swimming  pool  or  spa,  will sound  upon  detection  of  accidental  or  unauthorized  entrance  into  the  water.  The  alarm  shall  meet  and  be  independently  certified  to  the  ASTM  Standard  F2208  “Standard  Safety  Specification  for  Residential Pool Alarms,” which includes surface motion, pressure, sonar, laser, and infrared  type alarms. A swimming protection alarm feature designed for individual use, including an  alarm attached to a child that sounds when the child exceeds a certain distance or becomes  submerged in water, is not a qualifying drowning prevention safety feature.
  7. Other means of protection, if the degree of protection afforded is equal to or greater than  that afforded by any of the features set forth above and has been independently verified by  an approved testing laboratory as meeting standards for those features established by the  ASTM or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

(b) Before  the  issuance  of  a  final  approval  for  the  completion  of  permitted  construction  or  remodeling work,  the local building code official  shall inspect  the drowning  safety prevention features required by this section and, if no violations are found, shall give final approval.

This  statute  is  one  of  two  key  provisions  of  the  bill.  The  language  clearly  empowers  the  homeowner and/or pool contractor with the authority to choose which of the 7 safety devises to  install. There is nothing in this statute which provides discretion to the local public entity or the  building inspector to decide which safety devises to accept, mandate or disallow. Nor is their any  language which would permit a city or county to divide the seven safety devises into two or more  categories  and  then  require  a  pool  builder  to  choose  one  safety  devise  from  each  of  the  categories.

Prior to the 2017 amendments to this Act, Section 115925 of the Health & Safety Code provided  that the above section did not apply to:

(a) Public swimming pools.

(b) Hot  tubs or  spas with locking  safety covers  that comply with  the American Society  for  Testing and Materials (ASTM F1346).

(c) Any pool within the jurisdiction of any political subdivision that adopts an ordinance for  swimming  pool  safety  that includes  requirements  that are at least as  stringent as  this  article.

(d) An apartment complex, or any residential setting other than a single‐family home.

As previously indicated, the compromise CPSA negotiated relative to SB 442 if Subsection (c) of  the Act be repealed. This compromise eliminated the authority of local public entities to enforce  ordinances that are different or more stringent than state law.

California’s  Pool  Safety  Act  empowers  the  builder  and/or  homeowner  to  choose  from  the  7  specified safety devises and does not authorize  the building inspector or local public entity  to  change or interpret  that law differently. Lastly, SB 442 establishes one statewide standard  for  swimming pool safety devises.