Aquatics Guidelines—Spa Safety


Guidelines for public spas are promulgated by the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The following suggestions are considered minimum standards for the installation of spas in facilities. It would be prudent to contact local authorities to determine if their codes and ordinances are more extensive. Although the following list includes many of the important design considerations and safety features for spas, it is not exhaustive and the appropriate NSPI/ANSI code should be consulted when reviewing the safety of any spa.

Design Considerations:

  • All surfaces within the spa area should be slip resistant. The roughness or texture of the slip resistant surface should not cause discomfort or injury during normal use.
  • The interior color, patterns, and finishes of the spa should enhance the identification of foreign objects in the spa.
  • The maximum water depth of any spa should not exceed 4 feet.
  • If seating is provided in the spa, the distance from the surface of any seat or sitting bench should be 28 inches or less from the maximum water depth line.
  • Every spa with a depth of 24 inches or more should have a point of entry designated by a handrail. One handrail should be provided for every 50 feet (or portion thereof) of perimeter.
  • Handrails for spas should be installed so that they are removable only with tools.
  • Treads for spa steps should be at least 10 inches deep and 12 inches wide; the surface should be slip resistant and self-draining.
  • Riser height for spa steps should be 7 ½ inches or less.
  • A continuous unobstructed deck should be provided around at least 50% of the spa.
  • Sharp corners on deck edging should be avoided.
  • Permanent deck markings with numbers at least 4 inches tall should be conspicuously visible from all points of entry into the spa, within 18 inches of the spa edge and positioned to be read while standing on the deck facing the water.
  • There should be a minimum of 2 deck depth markers per spa regardless of the size or shape of the spa. These markers should be uniformly located on the perimeter no more than 25 feet apart.
  • Spas should have the maximum water depth clearly marked on the deck wall in numbers at least 4 inches tall.
  • All public spas should have a clock that is visible to all users.
  • All spas should be maintained under the supervision and direction of a properly trained operator who is responsible for the sanitation and safety of the spa.

Operation and Management

  • The maximum user load should not exceed 1 person per nine square feet of surface area.
  • Should any inspections, including self inspections, reveal a hazardous or unsanitary condition that may present a hazardous or unhealthy condition, the spa should be shut down until the condition(s) have been corrected.
  • Temperature controls should be located where they are inaccessible to unauthorized persons. The maximum temperature should be 104°F (40°C).
  • A means of determining spa water temperature (e.g., a thermometer) that is accurate to + 1oF should be accessible to the user.
  • The spa should be capable of being secured to protect against unauthorized access.

Safety Features – Signage

Signage delineating safety, emergency, and operational aspects of the spa should be prominently posted in an area clearly visible upon entering the spa area. Safety signs should include, but not necessarily be limited to the following warnings:

  • Risk of Fetus Damage – Hot water exposure limitations vary from person to person. Pregnant women should not use a spa without first consulting their physician.
  • Risk of Drowning – Other persons suffering from heart disease, diabetes, high or low blood pressure and other health problems should not enter the spa without permission from their doctor. Unsupervised use by children is prohibited. Do not use the spa while under the influence of drugs, narcotics or other drugs that may cause sleepiness or drowsiness.
  • Risk of Injury – Before entering, check spa temperature before each use. The spa temperature should not exceed 104 degrees F.
  • Risk of Injury – Enter and Exit slowly. Keep all breakable objects out of the spa area.
  • Risk of Shock – Never place electrical appliances within 5 feet of the spa. The spa should not be used during severe weather conditions, i.e. electrical storms, tornadoes, etc.
  • For emergency assistance – Emergency access procedures should be identified, whether they be an emergency call button or telephone; if telephone, the numbers for emergency access (e.g., 911, front desk, ambulance, fire, and police should listed).


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