A backyard pool is one of those staples of fun in the sun during the warmer months of the year. But regardless of how often you use your pool, it’s unfortunately a hazard 365 days of the year. After all, it only takes a second for a child or pet to wander into a pool area and inadvertently fall in, leading to an accident or worse. Even if you don’t have children of your own, kids or other people could gain access to your pool if it’s left largely unsecured for much of the year, and that could represent a legal liability that you probably don’t want to deal with.
The good news is that you can avoid it all with a proper fence around your pool. In fact, many states and municipalities have pool fencing requirements that stipulate how backyard and public pools should be secured, and if you have a years-old pool you may be running afoul of the law without even realizing it. In addition to swimming pool fencing requirements, you may also need to post signage in some areas, so it’s important to look into your local municipal and state pool regulations to ensure that your pool area is on the up-and-up.
Note that regulations and pool fencing requirements can change at any time, so if you have any questions its best to reach out to the local authorities to verify if your pool area meets all the required laws. While commercial pools have more stringent requirements that may require adequate signage and warnings around the pool deck, residential pool owners can often satisfy their needs with a pool cover, fence and gate.
Federal Pool Fencing Requirements
While adequate pool fencing may be the best way to prevent unauthorized access in a pool area, there’s only one real federal pool law. Known as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act), the law was named after a 7-year-old that drowned in a hot tub after getting stuck by the suction of the drain. Despite her mother’s best efforts, she was not able to break free, leading to the law that was signed by President Bush in 2007.
But the law goes further than spas. It states that all pool drain covers manufactured after December 2008 must meet the new standard, as well as requiring pools with one main drain to add a suction-limiting vent system, a gravity drainage system, an automatic pump shut-off system or disabling the drain itself.
Other federal laws include accessibility standards for public pools, though residential pools are not subject to these requirements. However, just because there’s not a federal law doesn’t mean that you may not have pool fencing requirements for your above ground or in-ground pool, particularly with regard to height or other safety needs. Even if your state or municipality doesn’t require it, pool fencing is one of the best ways to prevent a pool-related accident, and anyone with a backyard pool should seek to secure it with a fence.
Since adopting the 2009 International Building Code, Alabama residents are subject to the pool fencing requirements outlined in Section 3109. Some counties have more restrictive regulations with regard to signage and fencing — including Baldwin, Jefferson and Mobile — so if you live in those counties you’ll have to investigate further.
No pool fencing requirements for residential pools.
If a pool is located at a residence where a child younger than the age of six lives, Arizona requires that a fence or barrier must surround the pool area. It must be at least five foot tall with no openings other than a door or gate larger than four inches in diameter. It must also not be located next to climbable features and sit at least 20 inches from the edge of the pool. Other pool fencing requirements depend on whether the pool area is entirely enclosed, as well as self-closing and self-latching gates.
Aside from requiring the same self-closing and self-latching gates of many other states, Arkansas requires fencing around all four sides and carries a pool fence height requirement of at least four feet with gaps that are no bigger than four inches. The fence should also not feature more than four inches of space between the ground and the bottom of the fence.
According to California Health and Safety Codes, residential pool fencing must be at least five feet tall with no more than two inches of space between the fence and the ground. The gaps in the fencing must not be any larger than four inches in diameter, and the fence itself must not be located near obstacles and surfaces that can be used to climb over the fence. If there are any gates, they need to open away from the pool area, as well as being self-closing and self-latching with the latch at least five feet off the ground to prevent unauthorized access.
No statewide pool fencing requirements for residential pools, though the city of Denver requires fencing that is five feet tall without openings more than four inches wide, and the pool must be visible from the exterior of the fence. Self-latching and self-closing gates are also required.
According to the Connecticut State Building Code, pool fence height requirements are at least four feet high with a maximum of two inches of space between the ground and fence. Any horizontal members must be located on the pool side of the fence with a maximum opening of four inches in diameter.
No pool fencing requirements for residential pools.
With the passing of the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act in 2009, the state’s pool fencing requirements stipulates that fences must be at least four feet tall without gaps that a young child could fit through, nor be located close enough to surrounding features that can be climbed. They have to be separate from other yard enclosures unless the enclosure also meets the requirements, as well as being at least 20 inches from the water. If gates exist, they must open away from the pool and feature self-closing, self-latching mechanisms that can’t be reached by a young child on the outside of the gate.
Pool Fencing Requirements for Other States
Note that while we’ve covered nine states here, there are 41 other states that potentially have pool fencing requirements and other laws the books governing residential pools. But when in doubt, and for the security and safety of kids in the area, every pool — residential and public — should feature a robust pool fence to prevent unauthorized access.
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