Safety Barrier Guidelinesfor Residential PoolsPreventing Child DrowningsU.S. Consumer ProductSafety Commission

This document is in the public domain. Therefore it may be reproduced, in partor in whole, without permission by an individual or organization. However, ifit is reproduced, the Commission would appreciate attribution and knowinghow it is used.For further information, write:U.S. Consumer Product Safety CommissionOffice of Communications4330 East West HighwayBethesda, Md. 20814www.cpsc.govCPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury ordeath associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products underthe agency’s jurisdiction.

Many communities have enacted safety regulations for barriers at residential swimming pools—in ground and above ground. In addition tofollowing these laws, parents who own pools can take their own precautions to reduce the chances of their youngsters accessing the family orneighbors’ pools or spas without supervision. This booklet provides tipsfor creating and maintaining effective barriers to pools and spas.Each year, thousands of American families suffer swimming pool tragedies—drownings and near-drownings of young children. The majorityof deaths and injuries in pools and spas involve young children ages 1to 3 and occur in residential settings. These tragedies are preventable.This U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) booklet offersguidelines for pool barriers that can help prevent most submersionincidents involving young children. This handbook is designed for useby owners, purchasers, and builders of residential pools, spas, and hottubs.The swimming pool barrier guidelines are not a CPSC standard, nor arethey mandatory requirements. CPSC believes that the safety featuresrecommended in this booklet will help make pools safer, promote poolsafety awareness, and save lives. Barriers are not the sole method toprevent pool drowning of young children and cannot replace adultsupervision.Some states and localities have incorporated these guidelines into theirbuilding codes. Check with your local authorities to see what is requiredin your area’s building code or in other regulations.Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 1

Swimming Pool Barrier GuidelinesMany of the nearly 300 children under 5 who drown each year inbackyard pools could be saved if homeowners completely fenced inpools and installed self-closing and self-latching devices on gates.Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children canmove. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive and lack a realistic sense ofdanger. These behaviors make swimming pools particularly hazardousfor households with young children.CPSC reports that child drownings are the second leading cause ofaccidental death around the home for children under 5 years of age. Insome southern or warm weather states, drowning is the leading causeof accidental death in the home for children under 5.CPSC staff has reviewed a great deal of data on drownings and childbehavior, as well as information on pool and pool barrier construction.The staff concluded that the best way to reduce child drownings inresidential pools is for pool owners to construct and maintain barriersthat will help to prevent young children from gaining access to poolsand spas.The guidelines provide information for pool and spa owners to useto prevent children from entering the pool area unaccompanied by asupervising adult. They take into consideration the variety of barriers(fences) available and where each might be vulnerable to a childwanting to get on the other side.The swimming pool barrier guidelines are presented with illustrateddescriptions of pool barriers. The definition of pool includes spas andhot tubs. The swimming pool barrier guidelines therefore apply tothese structures as well as to above ground pools, and may includelarger portable pools.2 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools

Pool and Spa Submersions:Estimated Injuries and ReportedFatalities*CPSC publishes an annual reporton submersion incidents. Keyfindings from the 2012 reportinclude:nn Nearly 300 children younger than 5 drown in swimming poolsand spas each year representing 75 percent of the 390 fatalitiesreported for children younger than 15.nn Children aged 1 to 3 years (12 months through 47 months)represented 67 percent of the reported fatalities and 66 percentof reported injuries in pools and spas.nn Over 4,100 children younger than 5 suffer submersion injuriesand require emergency room treatment; about half are seriouslyinjured and are admitted to the hospital for further treatment.nn The majority of drownings and submersion injuries involvingvictims younger than 5 occur in pools owned by the family,friends or relatives.nn The majority of estimated emergency department-treatedsubmersion injuries and reported fatalities were associated withpools.nn Portable pools accounted for 10 percent of the total fatalities(annual average of 40) for children younger than 15.*The report presents average annual estimates for emergency department-treated injuries for2009 through 2011 and average annual estimates for fatal submersions for 2007 through 2009,as reported to CPSC staff. The years for reported injury and fatality statistics differ due to a lag infatality reporting.Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 3

BarriersBarriers are not child proof, but they provide layers of protection for achild when there is a lapse in adult supervision. Barriers give parentsadditional time to find a child before the unexpected can occur.Barriers include a fence or wall, door alarms for the house, and a powersafety cover over the pool. Use the following recommendations as aguide.Barrier LocationsBarriers should be located so as to prohibit permanent structures,equipment or similar objects from being used to climb the barriers.FencesA fence completely surrounding the pool is better than one with thehouse serving as the fourth side. Fences should be a minimum of 4 feethigh, although fences 5 feet or higher are preferable.If the home serves as one side of the barrier install door alarms on alldoors leading to the pool area. Make sure the doors have self-closingand self-latching devices or locks beyond the reach of children toprevent them from opening the door and gaining access to the pool.Pool covers add another layer of protection and there are a widevariety of styles on the market. Keep pool covers well-maintained andmake sure the control devices are kept out of the reach of children.4 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools

A successful pool barrier prevents a child fromgetting OVER, UNDER, or THROUGH andkeeps the child from gaining access to the poolexcept when supervising adults are present.How To Prevent a Child from Getting OVER a Pool BarrierA young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low or ifthe barrier has handholds or footholds to use when climbing. The topof a pool barrier should be at least 48 inches above grade, measured onthe side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Somestates, counties or municipalities require pool barriers of 60 inches.Equal to or more than 45"4"48"Eliminate handholds andfootholds and minimizethe size of openings in abarrier’s construction.4"Figure 1For a Solid BarrierNo indentations or protrusionsshould be present, other thannormal construction tolerancesand masonry joints.Figure 2Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 5

For a Barrier (Fence) Made Up of Horizontaland Vertical MembersIf the distance between the top side of the horizontal members is lessthan 45 inches, the horizontal members should be on the swimmingpool side of the fence.1¾"Less than 45"1¾"The spacing between verticalmembers and within decorativecutouts should not exceed 1¾inches. This size is based on thefoot width of a young child and isintended to reduce the potentialfor a child to gain a foothold andattempt to climb the fence.Figure 36 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools1¾"4"45" or moreIf the distance between the tops ofthe horizontal members is more than45 inches, the horizontal memberscan be on the side of the fence facingaway from the pool. The spacingbetween vertical members shouldnot exceed 4 inches. This size isbased on the head breadth and chestdepth of a young child and is intended to prevent a child from passingthrough an opening. If there are anydecorative cutouts in the fence, thespace within the cutouts should notexceed 1¾ inches.Figure 4

For a Chain Link FenceThe mesh size should not exceed 1¼ inches square unless slats,fastened at the top or bottom of the fence, are used to reduce meshopenings to no more than 1¾ inches.1¾"1¼"Figure 5Figure 6For a Fence Made Up of Diagonal Members or LatticeworkThe maximum opening in the latticeshould not exceed 1¾ inches.1¾"Figure 7Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 7

For Above Ground PoolsAbove ground pools should have barriers. The pool structure itselfserves as a barrier or a barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure.There are two possible ways to prevent young children from climbingup into an above ground pool. The steps or ladder can be designedto be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps orladder can be surrounded by a barrier such as those described in theseguidelinesFigure 8bFigure 8aFigure 8cAbove Ground Pool withBarrier on Top of PoolIf an above ground pool has a barrieron the top of the pool, the maximumvertical clearance between the topof the pool and the bottom of thebarrier should not exceed 4 inches.4"Figure 98 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools

How to Prevent a Child from Getting UNDER a Pool Barrier4"2"For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottomof the barrier should not exceed4 inches above the surface orground when the measurementis done on the side of thebarrier facing away from the pool.Industry recommends that if thebottom of the gate or fence restson a non-solid surface like grass orgravel, that measurement shouldnot exceed 2 inches.Figure 10How to Prevent a Child from Getting THROUGH a Pool BarrierPreventing a child from getting through apool barrier can be done by restricting thesizes of openings in a barrier and byusing self-closing and self-latchinggates.To prevent a young child fromgetting through a fence or otherbarrier, all openings should besmall enough so that a 4-inchdiameter sphere cannot passthrough. This size is based on thehead breadth and chest depth of ayoung child.4"Figure 11Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 9

Portable PoolsPortable pools are becoming morepopular. They vary in size andheight, from tiny blow-up pools tolarger thousands-of-gallons designs.Portable pools present a real dangerto young children.Never leave children unsupervisedaround portable pools. It is recommended that portable pools befenced, covered or emptied andstored away. Instruct neighbors,friends and caregivers about theirpresence and the potential dangersof a portable pool in your yard.Removable Mesh FencesMesh fences are specificallymade for swimming pools orother small bodies of water.Although mesh fences are meantto be removable, the safest meshpool fences are locked into thedeck so that they cannot beremoved without the extensiveuse of tools.Like other pool fences, mesh fences should be a minimum of 48” inheight. The distance between vertical support poles and the attachedmesh, along with other manufactured factors, should be designedto hinder a child’s ability to climb the fence. The removable verticalsupport posts should extend a minimum of 3 inches below grade andthey should be spaced no greater than 40 inches apart. The bottomof the mesh barrier should not be more than 1 inch above the deck orinstalled surface.For more information on Removable Mesh Fencing see ASTM standard F 2286 – 05.10 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools

GatesThere are two kinds of gates which might be found on a residentialproperty: pedestrian gates and vehicle or other types of gates. Both canplay a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier. All gates should bedesigned with a locking device.Pedestrian GatesThese are the gates people walkthrough. Swimming pool barriersshould be equipped with a gate orgates which restrict access to thepool.Gates should open out from thepool and should be self-closingand self-latching. If a gate is properly designed and not completelylatched, a young child pushingon the gate in order to enter thepool area will at least close thegate and may actually engagethe latch.Figure 12Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 11

The weak link in the strongest and highest fence is a gatethat fails to close and latch completely. For a gate to closecompletely every time, it must be in proper working order.When the release mechanism of theself-latching device on the gate is lessthan 54 inches from the bottom ofthe gate, the release mechanism forthe gate should be at least 3 inchesbelow the top of the gate on the sidefacing the pool. Placing the releasemechanism at this height prevents ayoung child from reaching over the topof a gate and releasing the latch.½"3"18"Also, the gate and barrier should have Figure 13no opening greater than 1/2 inchwithin 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a youngchild from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.All Other Gates (Vehicle Entrances, Etc.)Other gates should be equipped with self-latching devices. Theself-latching devices should be installed as described for pedestriangates.12 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools

When the House Forms Part of the Pool BarrierIn many homes, doors open directly from the house onto the pool areaor onto a patio leading to the pool. In such cases, the side of the houseleading to the pool is an important partof the pool barrier. Passage through anydoor from the house to the pool should becontrolled by security measures.The importance of controlling a youngchild’s movement from the house to poolis demonstrated by the statistics obtainedin CPSC’s submersion reports. Residentiallocations dominate in incidents involvingchildren younger than 5 accounting for85% of fatalities and 54 percent of injuries(from CPSC’s 2012 Pool and Spa SubmersionReport, see page 3).Door Alarms54"Figure 14All doors that allow access to a swimming pool should be equipped withan audible alarm which sounds when the door and/or screen are opened.Alarms should meet the requirements of UL 2017 General-Purpose SignalingDevices and Systems, Section 77 with the following features:nn Sound lasting for 30 seconds or more within 7 seconds after the dooris opened.nn The alarm should be loud: at least 85 dBA (decibels) when measured10 feet away from the alarm mechanism.nn The alarm sound should be distinct from other sounds in the house,such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm.nn The alarm should have an automatic reset feature to temporarilydeactivate the alarm for up to 15 seconds to allow adults to passthrough house doors without setting off the alarm. The deactivationswitch could be a touchpad (keypad) or a manual switch, and shouldbe located at least 54 inches above the threshold and out of thereach of children.Self-closing doors with self-latching devices could be used in conjunctionwith door alarms to safeguard doors which give access to a swimmingpool.Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 13

Pet or Doggy DoorsNever have a pet or doggy door if the door leads directly to a poolor other backyard water. An isolation barrier or fence is the bestdefense when pet doors are installed. Remember, pet door openings,often overlooked by adults, provide curious children with an outletto backyard adventure. Locking these doors is not sufficient andcould lead to accidents and tragedies. Children regularly drown inbackyard pools, which they were able to access through pet doors.Some municipalities have building codes that prohibit doggy doors inhomes with pools unless there is an isolation fence around the pool.Power Safety CoversPower safety covers can be installed on pools to serve as securitybarriers, especially when the house serves as the fourth wall or sideof a barrier. Power safety covers should conform to the specificationsin the ASTM F 1346-91 standard, which specifies safety performancerequirements for pool covers to protect young children from drowning.Figure 1514 Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential PoolsIndoor PoolsWhen a pool is locatedcompletely within a house,the walls that surround thepool should be equipped toserve as pool safety barriers.Measures recommendedfor using door alarms, poolalarms and covers where ahouse wall serves as part ofa safety barrier also apply forall the walls surrounding anindoor pool.

Barriers for Residential SwimmingPool, Spas, and Hot TubsThe preceding explanations of CPSC’s pool barrier guidelines were provided to make iteasier for pool owners, purchasers, builders, technicians, and others to understand andapply the guidelines to their particular properties or situations. Reading the followingguidelines in conjunction with the diagrams or figures previously provided may be helpful. For further information, consult your local building department or code authority.Outdoor Swimming PoolsAll outdoor swimming pools, including inground, above ground, or onground pools,hot tubs, or spas, should have a barrier which complies with the following:1.The top of the barrier should be at least 48 inches above the surface measured onthe side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool (figure 1).2.The maximum vertical clearance between the surface and the bottom of thebarrier should be 4 inches measured on the side of the barrier which faces awayfrom the swimming pool. In the case of a non-solid surface, grass or pebbles, thedistance should be reduced to 2 inches, and 1 inch for removable mesh fences(figures 1 and 10).3.Where the top of the pool structure is above grade or surface, such as an aboveground pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, ormounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top ofthe pool structure, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the poolstructure and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches (figure 9).4.Openings in the barrier should not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere(figure 11).5.Solid barriers, which do not have openings, such as a masonry or stone wall,should not contain indentations or protrusions except for normal constructiontolerances and tooled masonry joints (figure 2).6.Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and thedistance between the bottom and top horizontal members is less than 45 inches,the horizontal members should be located on the swimming pool side of the fence(figure 3).7.Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 1¾ inches in width.Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed1¾ inches in width (figure 4).8.Maximum mesh size for chain link fences should not exceed 1¼ inch squareunless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom whichreduce the openings to no more than 1¾ inches (figures 5 and 6).9.Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, themaximum opening formed by the diagonal members should be no more than 1¾inches (figure 7).10. Access gates to the pool should be equipped with a locking device. Pedestrianaccess gates should open outward, away from the pool, and should be self-closingand have a self-latching device (figure 12). Gates other than pedestrian accessSafety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools 15

gates should have a self-latching device. Where the release mechanism of theself-latching device is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate,(a) the release mechan