Pool Safety Measure Introduced In California Legislature
This week, a proposal was introduced in the California State Legislature to amend the Swimming Pool Safety Act. This measure, AB 470, was amended by Assembly Member Kansen Chu (D-Milpitas) in a process known as a “gut and amend”, where the original contents of a bill are stripped out and replaced with something entirely new. This process is often used to introduce new bills after the deadline to submit original ones has passed, or in the case of AB 470 because the supporters of the bill had a difficult time finding a Legislator who was willing to carry it. AB 470 is supported by a coalition of many different groups who produced the Unintentional Injury Prevention Strategic Plan Project in hopes of reducing the number of unintentional deaths and injuries of children in California.
Increasing swimming pool safety is the top item on the list of actions in the Unintentional Injury Prevention Strategic Plan, and focuses on increasing the barrier requirements for swimming pools in California. The Plan states that “drowning continues to be the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children under the age of 5,” and because of this “California’s Pool Safety Act must be updated to specify what barriers are required to prevent a child from getting to the pool unsupervised.”
In order to do so, the new proposal is made up of three parts:
- Legislative Intent: This portion of the bill states the Legislature’s intent regarding this particular proposal. The new legislative intent states that fences, or “barriers” prevent children from gaining unsupervised access to pools and are proven to save lives, and those barriers that utilize isolation fencing are among the most effective.
- Number of Drowning Prevention Safety Features: The Swimming Pool Safety Act currently requires that every new pool built include one of seven drowning prevention safety features. The seven features are isolating enclosure, removable mesh fencing, approved safety pool cover, exit alarms on the home’s doors that provide access to the pool, self-latching device on the home’s doors that provide access to the pool, pool alarm, and other means of protection that afford equal or greater degrees of protection as the features listed. This bill would change this section by requiring two or the seven features rather than just one.
- Home Inspection: This bill also provides that prior to selling a single-family home, a local building code official will need to inspect and certify that the home has two of the seven drowning prevention features required by the Swimming Pool Safety Act.
These three distinct parts of the bill all have a differing level of severity and impact on the pool industry, all of which must be examined separately. The first, the legislative intent stating that isolation fencing is the most effective (and therefor ideal) means of pool safety, is the most concerning. While the legislative intent does not in itself create a new law, it can be used later by judges to set precedent and make determinations in court cases. The other two sections of this bill are the two substantive changes to law that will be made, and while they are not ideal it seems at the moment as though they are not nearly as damaging as they could have been. Moving up the number of required safety features from one to two would actually bring state law in line with what many municipalities already require, and calling for pools to be included in home inspections would have little to no impact on the pool builders themselves.
Because opposing measures that are framed around the protection children can be a difficult and damaging thing to do, the CPSA is looking for alternative ways of dealing with this bill. We are working with a select group of our members to gain their input on how this measure would affect their business, and will factor their opinions into our plan moving forward. It currently appears that the most prudent course of action would be to work towards removing or modifying the legislative intent to not include isolation fencing, as that has the most potential to negative impact the pool industry in the future. Other industry groups, such as the Realtors Association, have voiced their opposition to the home inspection portion of the bill, meaning that the CPSA can focus instead on ensuring that this bill will not be damaging to our members. We will be carefully monitoring the bill as it moves forward through the Legislature, and working with the author’s office closely to ensure that our concerns are heard and taken into account. Stay tuned for more updates.
CPSA, the California Pool and Spa Association, serves as the statewide public policy representative for the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. We advocate on behalf of industry interests before the California Legislature and state and local regulatory agencies, and for individual members dealing with enforcement issues. Working daily on the industry’s behalf, we have an unmatched track record in successfully negotiating and fighting against unreasonable and costly legislation and for enforcement of unlicensed contractor laws. CPSA promotes the highest standards of professional conduct in pool construction, service, and repair, and seeks to educate the public on the proper maintenance and safe use of swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. For nearly 40 years, CPSA has been the only organization registered to lobby at the State Capitol on behalf of the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. CPSA is funded by membership dues and donations. For more information on CPSA and legislation we are watching, call 916-447-4113.