Complying with Virginia Graeme Baker requires more than a quick glance
The Virginia Graeme Baker act demands all residential swimming pools to have a proper drain cover to prevent entrapment, but even if the right drain cover appears to be in place, poor care or improper installation can mean an entrapment risk still exists.
Steve Barnes, director of science and compliance for AquaStar Pool Products in Ventura, California, says the No. 1 priority for service technicians is to perform a visual inspection each time they visit to ensure all drain covers are in place with no visible signs of damage, cracks or being loose.
broken and damaged drain covers should be treated just like a missing junction
box cover with bare wires sticking out,” he says. “Both pose life-threatening
dangers to anyone who comes in contact with them.”
replacing a drain cover, first ensure that the new cover is VGB compliant — and
many current residential covers are not. Make sure it has a flow rating
adequate for the pump and a sump depth specification shallower than the
covers also have a shelf life, which begins when the cover is installed. This
makes it important for you to keep good records of when covers are replaced.
The plastic can get brittle over time and chemical abuse can accelerate the
decay of the plastic fittings. If a tech notices something broken or sees a
hole in it, it must be addressed immediately.
putting in a new cover, use proper screws and fasteners. If it is stripped,
find an adequate way to replace the plastic ring so it has tie between the sump
and drain cover.
All Seems Well
it looks like a drain cover is in place, there can still be challenges: Barnes
says some drain covers with the correct flow ratings can’t handle the pump’s
flow when skimmers are plugged, not available because of low water levels or
they are being used for a suction-side cleaner connection point.
users can’t see how much water is flowing into the drains and have no way of
knowing it could tangle hair or hold them against the drain cover if they swim
too close,” he says. “This is one of the most important safety checks a pool
tech can conduct.”
techs should periodically hit the covers with a brush or rake to ensure there’s
not a screw loose or something wrong that can’t be seen at first glance.
the VGB Pool & Spa Safety Act was passed, suction entrapment incidents
continue to happen on drain covers that look VGB compliant. In one instance,
Barnes says a larger pump was installed, exceeding the flow rating of the
cover, which then entangled a girl’s hair and she had to be rescued. In
another, some drain covers were plugged with debris, sending too much water
through another and a girl’s hair was tangled — she was saved when her father
ripped the drain cover off the spa wall to free her.
replacing drain covers, a service tech must know the maximum flow potential of
the pumping system and then select a replacement with a VGB flow rating that is
obviously must be compatible with [how it attaches to] the pool or spa
structure and it must be compatible with the opening under the drain cover,”
Barnes says. “This is called the sump depth and most drain covers need
clearance between the drain cover and the suction pipe opening.”
clearance is common and so is a minimum of one-and-a-half times the suction
pipe diameter, while other models are rated for zero sump depths and can be
used on any sump they fit.
“Zero sump drain covers are the best style to
carry on service trucks because the tech doesn’t have to make two trips, one to
inspect the sump and another to install a compatible cover,” Barnes says. “The
bottom line: The service tech must know what the pool needs before going to the
distributor so they know what to ask for.”