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Effective June 1, 2008, existing barriers, including fences, windows, doors, gates and walls surrounding the pool enclosure must comply with the revised code.

Check the Washington State Dept. of Health website for detailed pictures in the Water Recreation Code WAC 246-260, as well as additional guidance documents. These barrier upgrades will save lives by preventing unsupervised children from getting into pools and spas.

Before making changes to your pool to comply with the new Federal requirements you will need to go through plan review. Submit a Water Recreation Facility Plan Review Application, renovation fee and applicable information specified in the Plan Review Checklist for New Federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Requirements to Public Health to start the review process.

There are a number of resources available to help you understand these new requirements. Several guidance documents developed by Washington State Department of Health and other resources are listed in related resources under Virginia Graeme Baker Act.

Barriers at pools not continuously lifeguarded and associated with residential units

  • Door and gate latches must be continuously locked, coded or have another equivalent access control system that always requires a key or code to enter the pool area when latches are placed below 60 inches above the ground. 
    Fact: Fifty percent of children 7-1/2 years old can reach a latch at a 60 inch height.
  • Doors and gates are not required to be continuously locked when latches are placed 60 inches or more above the ground. Consult with your local building department before raising latches to assure latch height does not create conflicts with Building Codes or The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA may not allow a latch raised above 48 inches. 

  • Pool and spas without continual lifeguards must have self closing, self latching doors and gates. Immediately repair self closing and latching mechanisms that are not working. 

  • Pools associated with residential units must replace or retrofit existing fences less than 5 feet high. Pool barriers previously grandfathered must be retrofitted or replaced.

  • General use pools and private clubs must replace or retrofit existing fences less than 6 feet high.

Barriers at all pools

  • Existing fences, gates, doors, and windows entering into the pool must not allow a 4 inch sphere to pass through. Modifications must be completed prior to the June 1, 2008 deadline.
    Fact: 95 percent of children under the age of nine are able to get through a six inch opening in a fence.

  • Chain link mesh size must not exceed 1-1/4 inch square. When the chain link exceeds 1-1/4 inch, slats must be provided to reduce mesh opening.
    Fact: Children can easily climb chain link fences where larger openings allow for hand and foot holds.

The structural or designed horizontal members of the barrier must be greater than 45 inches apart or otherwise designed to prevent creating a ladder effect allowing unauthorized access into the facility.