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Gates And Barriers: Your First Step In Drowning Prevention

July 20, 2020

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One of the first things your guests should encounter when showing up to your pool or hot tub is something designed to prevent them from using the facility! It may seem ironic, but every one of our pools and hot tubs should be protected by a barrier that prevents unauthorized and/or unqualified persons from gaining access to your swimming area. These gates and barriers can be one of the most important life-saving tools you have installed at your property. In this article we are going to cover the following:

  • The Importance of Gates and Barriers
  • Barrier Guidelines
  • Gate Guidelines
  • Code Considerations


The Importance of Gates and Barriers

To be frank, drowning is a huge problem. In fact, take a look at these stats released by the CDC on the topic of drowning: 

  • From 2005-2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day.1 
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.1 For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.1
  • More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries).1,2 These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).3,4


The solution to eliminating drowning risks is a complicated one that involves education, design, and mitigation, and the majority of those reading this article are in control of mainly one of those elements, mitigation. 

The majority of state and local codes throughout the United States require that a gate and barrier be in place in all public or semi-public swimming facilities. These gates and barriers are a great way to mitigate the risks of drowning, so long as these fences and gates follow the accepted design and installation requirements. But what are those guidelines to follow? Let's explore them!

(Before we get started though, I want to caution you that this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to be used as legal advice or anything other than food for thought. It should also be noted that it is your legal obligation to provide adequate protection to your residents, guests, and tenants that adheres to any local or state statues, codes, or regulations.)



Gate Guidelines For Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs 

All public and semi-public pools are required to have a gate installed to block unauthorized/unqualified people from gaining access to the pool. To make sure your gate is compliant, make sure you're checking the following items (As per Colorado State requirements - requirements that are, on the whole, considered universal across the US):

  • Gate must be self-closing 
  • Gate must be self-latching
  • Latch must be no lower than 54" off the ground
  • Entrance must be ADA-Approved
  • Latch locking system must not be blockable 
  • Gate should be secured when closed
  • Gate must be locked when pool is not open for use. 


Barrier Guidelines for Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

All public and semi-public pools are required to have a barrier installed to block unauthorized/unqualified people from gaining access to the pool or hot tub. To make sure your gate is compliant, make sure you're checking the following items (As per Colorado State requirements - requirements that are, on the whole, considered universal across the US):

  • The minimum height in commercial fencing is 60"
  • Barred fencing must have no more than 4" of separation between each bar. This is to prevent anyone from slipping in between the bars.
  • Diamond-shaped chain link fencing must not have diamonds larger than 1 1/4" in width
  • any solid fencing, such as concrete, must be built in such a way that no foot hold can be found to aid someone in climbing over the fence. 


If there is separation between the bottom of the fence and the ground, use the following guidance (in conjunction with your local and state code) to ensure the safest environment possible:

  • Soft Ground Surfaces (Grass, etc.): Ensure there is no more than 2" of separation between the bottom of the fence and the ground.
  • Solid Ground Surfaces (Concrete, etc.): Ensure there is no more than 4" of separation between the bottom of the fence and the ground. 


Residential Fencing Requirements

Pool Training Academy focuses its attention primarily on the commercial swimming pool and hot tub industry, so the guidance in this article is focused on commercial requirements. But if you are a pool professional who works in the residential market, or are a homeowner looking for trusted guidance, we highly recommend that you explore the following resources:

Safety Barrier Guidelines For Residential Pools and Spas  (This is the CPSC's own guidance and can be trusted as guidance for backyard pool safety)

California Safety Barrier Guidelines  (California has stringent requirements for fencing in backyard pools and swimming areas. These requirements are designed to mitigate as many drownings and water related incidents as possible. 


Prevent Drownings By Getting CPO® Certified Today!

Operating a swimming pool safely is a complex job that requires specific knowledge and know-how. To safely operate and maintain an aquatic facility it truly does take more training than you can find on YouTube or read in an article like this. Thankfully you have options to help you become more knowledgeable about how to keep your swimmers safe. One of these options is taking a CPO Class with Pool Training Academy. Becoming CPO® Certified is one of the best ways to truly become a pool expert. And in many states this certification is required to operate a pool or spa. Pool Training Academy is the #1 CPO® Certification provider in the world and our classes are specially tailored to be fun, engaging, and most of all relevant to your needs. Click here to sign up for the next class in your area or to take a completely online course and learn everything you need to know to make your pool the best it can be. 

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