Aquatic Entrapment Guidelines - Existing Construction



Since the drafting of this article, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act has become federal law. Although the terms of this law govern, the information below is still a useful reference to steps that can be taken to address entrapment hazards in conjunction with the requirements of the law. For more information on the Virginia Graeme Baker act requirements, see Virginia Graeme Baker Act Resources.

The National Spa and Pool Institute and the American National Standards Institute have recently drafted a consensus standard to address the risk of entrapment in pools and spas. This standard applies to both new construction and existing facilities. For a more detailed explanation of both the entrapment risk and the new standard’s guidelines please see RMT: Aquatic Entrapment Guidelines – Pools and Spas.

For existing pools and spas there are actions that must be taken in order to be in compliance with this standard. The preferred measure is to retrofit your pool or spa with a “New Construction” option. Refer to RMA: Entrapment Guidelines: New Construction for these options. If a retrofit is not feasible in your facility, the following actions should be taken until the retrofit can be accomplished:

If you have multiple main drains:

  1. Frequently inspect any main drain covers or grates. Replace any grates or covers that are broken or aged and repair any damaged sumps, frames, or fasteners. Covers and grates should be securely fastened to the frame and should be removable only with the appropriate tools.
  2. Replace flat covers smaller than 12” x 12” with a listed cover or grate.
  3. Ensure that the system flow rate does not exceed the rating of any individual cover or grate. Replace covers or grates with higher rated models or reduce the flow rate of the system as necessary.
  4. As an alternative to item 3, you may convert the main drain suction outlet to a return inlet by changing the plumbing. This will give the skimmer/overflow system 100% of the system outlet flow.

If you have a single main drain you must have an approved cover or grate and apply one of the following corrective actions:

  1. convert to a gravity flow system
  2. add an additional main drain and follow the multiple main drain actions
  3. install a certified vent system
  4. install listed a safety vacuum release system (SVRS)

A single main drain or equalizer line is acceptable only if it is paired with one of the above or if it is protected by an approved cover or grate and it is plumbed through a skimmer that is manufactured to permanently prevent the installation of a balance valve.

Prior to retrofit or corrective construction of a pool or spa, consult with your designer and engineers to make sure that the necessary measures are taken and that the pool is constructed to comply with all local, state, and federal codes as well as all ANSI/NSPI standards.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about JCC risk management issues.


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