Standards and Pool Safety
How ASTM standards contribute to safer pool use and quality construction.
There's something appealing about the sparkling water in a pool. In the United States alone, people take to the water in more than 10 million swimming pools.1 Whether for fun, relaxation or exercise, a pool can be a wonderful place to enjoy a few hours.
A pool is also a great responsibility, and safety is part of that, particularly given that in America alone, about half of the population can't swim.2 (See sidebar for Pool Safety Tips.) Statistics on drowning are sobering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, with most drowning deaths occurring in home swimming pools.3
Today, ASTM members are working harder than ever to advance pool safety - as well as quality pool construction - through standards for fences, pools and related areas.
Good fences may make good neighbors, but they also make for safe pools and are usually required around pools by law.
Standards from ASTM Committee F14 on Fences describe what's needed to fence in backyard pools, hot tubs and spas. One standard (F1908), intended for local codes and ordinances, covers such specifics as a fence's height, its distance from the ground, and gates. Importantly, the standard was based in part on recommendations from consumer safety and medical groups. Another standard covers requirements for removable mesh fencing (F2286). Some U.S. state-based pool safety laws, such as those in California (which uses many ASTM standards in this area), cite this specification.
Committee F14 is responsible for many other fence standards, including fences around playgrounds. For both playground and pool fences, "Compliance to the standard is in addition to supervision, not to replace it," says F14 member Scott Burton, president of Safety Play Inc.
Portable Pools, Covers and Alarms
Families choose portable pools (inflatable or framed) to enjoy at their homes without the expense of an in-ground pool. An ASTM standard (F2666) supports portable-pool safety for pools no deeper than 91 cm or 36 in. The standard addresses the hazards of portable pools: childhood drowning, sanitation, electrical safety and entrapment. It also includes requirements for ladders, structural integrity, pumps and filters, and warning signs, among other components.
More needs to be done, according to Carol Pollack-Nelson, Ph.D., Independent Safety Consulting, who is a member of Committee F15 on Consumer Products. "Performance standards that mitigate the hazard of drowning beyond warnings and instructions are necessary and now being considered by the subcommittee," she says. Pollack-Nelson says that proposed revisions to F2666 will incorporate requirements for a child-resistant pool ladder. "Ladders are the single most prevalent means by which young children access the pool and drown, based on fatality data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission," she says.
Standards from F15 also cover suction and entrapment hazards, pool alarms and other equipment - all aimed at reducing the risk of drowning.
For example, an ASTM standard for vacuum release systems (F2387) helps protect people from being trapped by the suction of a pool or spa pumping system. The Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, which established U.S. safety standards for swimming pools and spas, cites the standard. F2387 provides requirements for these devices to rapidly release vacuum pressure when someone blocks part of the system.
Another example: An ASTM pool alarm standard (F2208) covers alarms that float on or under the water, sit at the edge or above the water, or are worn on the body. When turned on, these alarms sound if a child - a year or older - gets into a pool or spa.
Shotcrete and Pavers for In-Ground Pools
When people opt for an in-ground pool, ASTM shotcrete and paver standards are often part of the mix.
Shotcrete - concrete sprayed through a hose onto construction forms - is a desirable option for in-ground pools, particularly free-form designs. "Shotcrete has been well proven to allow contractors to produce high quality, durable concrete pools with minimal formwork in very creative shapes," says Richard Schwartz, laboratory manager at Quikrete and chairman of ASTM Subcommittee C09.46 on Shotcrete. "Concrete is the ideal material for long-term exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet light and water." He notes that shotcrete is a watertight, durable material that helps minimize construction costs.
ASTM standards support shotcrete use. Pool owners, engineers and architects use standards from C09.46 as well as standards from the American Concrete Institute. Two ASTM standards are particularly helpful when checking material quality; the standards provide consistent approaches to preparing and testing shotcrete test-panel specimens (C1140/C1140M) and cores (C1604).
Separately, designers and landscape architects who use brick pavers to edge a pool typically use an ASTM standard (C902), according to Brian E. Trimble. Trimble is regional vice president of engineering services for the Brick Industry Association, and chairman of Subcommittee C15.02 on Brick and Structural Clay Tile. He says that brick pavers are an important material for walkways and patios. "This standard assures that pavers that meet the standard will perform adequately for decades," he says.
Standards used for pool construction materials are critical to ensuring the safety and quality of pools. As new innovations in pool construction come to market, ASTM and other stakeholders will remain at the forefront to ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy their pools in the future.
Pool Safety Tips
- Check to see that drain covers are properly fitted and paired or have vacuum suction releases.
- Consider installing a pool alarm and put a lifesaving device on a wall or fence near a pool.
- Secure or remove steps and ladders for above-ground pools when not in use.
- Supervise children and be sure you and your kids have basic swimming and water safety skills. Have a cellphone nearby and learn CPR.
Pool Safety Tips from the International Code Council and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
1. "U.S. Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Market 2011," Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.
2. Feeney, Nolan, "Almost Half of America Can't Swim, Survey Says," Time, May 20, 2014.
3. "Unintentional Drowning," U.S. Centers for Disease Control.