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As of January 1st, the updated version of the Swimming Pool Safety Act enacted into law by SB 442 went into effect in California. This new act increases the requirements for safety devices on residential pools and spas in California, and applies when a permit is issued for a new or remodeled swimming pool and spa, as well as existing pools that are part of the sale of a home. In order to clarify some of the questions surrounding this new law, we have put together a short primer of the most important things you’ll need to know.

Who is affected?

Anyone who is pulling a permit to build or remodel a pool or spa in the state of California, and any pool that’s part of a home for sale.

What does this mean for pool builders?

While planning and designing a new pool, the builder will need to be aware of the new requirements for safety devices and discuss the options with the homeowner. While different building departments will likely handle the permitting and approval process differently, it is most likely that the safety devices will need to be present for the final inspection of the finished pool. Having a list of the permitted devices to give to homeowners will help them prepare for the inspection, and to ensure that their pool is fully compliant.

Who is exempt?

  • Public swimming pools.
  • Hot tubs or spas with locking safety covers that comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM F1346).
  • An apartment complex, or any residential setting other than a single-family home.

What counts as a safety device?

  • An enclosure that meets the requirements of Section 115923 and isolates the swimming pool or spa from the private single-family home.
  • 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.
  • An approved safety pool cover, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 115921.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

How does this affect home inspections?

In order to reach older, existing pools instead of only new ones, SB 442 requires that whenever there is an inspection of a property in connection with the transfer of that property, the inspection must also include the swimming pool or spa. This inspection is to be a noninvasive on whether or not the pool or spa has been equipped with two of the seven required safety devices, and this information will be included in the home inspection report.

This does not mean that the home inspector will be inspecting the pool structure, equipment, plumbing, electrical, or any other critical areas best left to a specialist. Failure to meet the requirements for safety devices will also not interfere with the sale of the home in any way, as the report will simply inform potential buyers that their pool does not currently have the required safety devices. The law simply requires the inspector to disclose whether or not two safety devices exist and are operating.

Where does this apply?

As part a part of the update to the Swimming Pool Safety Act, SB 442 clarified that this law is effective throughout California. It also, however, specified that the standard of 2 safety devices is not to be exceeded by any municipality, meaning that pool builders can be certain of the law no matter where they are working.

What is the benefit?

This act will work to reduce the number of children who either lose their lives or are seriously injured by unintentional drowning in residential swimming pools. Drowning in any body of water is the second leading cause of death for children from ages 1-4, and while parental supervision is the best prevention, ensuring that all residential pools have adequate safety measures will help keep preventable tragedies from happening. Swimming pools are an essential part of a healthy, active lifestyle for many families, and by preventing drownings we can all work together to keep pools safe, open, and accessible.