6 Things to Know About Pool Safety Laws

Two kids wearing safety floaties in an inground pool

Whether you’re actively planning a new swimming pool or just tinkering with the idea, you’re bound to come across some grim statistics at some point. Here’s one example of what we mean: Last summer, at least 174 children drowned in swimming pools and spas in the United States.

It might be the last thing you want to think about as you’re daydreaming about your new backyard oasis, but sooner or later, the issue of pool safety becomes impossible to ignore. Why? Because in most places, it’s a matter of law.

Wherever you live, you can bet there are laws in effect that are aimed at preventing pool-related injuries and deaths. These laws can seriously impact how you build and use your new pool. Here are some basic facts about pool safety laws around the country so you have an idea of what to expect:

1. They’re local. There are a few examples of statewide pool safety laws, but most are enacted at the city or county level. As a result, the requirements can vary a lot from place to place, even within the same state. In general, more populated areas tend to have stricter controls on pool construction (no surprise there). However, the bottom line is that you’ll need to do some research to find out what regulations apply in your neck of the woods.

2. They’re different for public and private pools. There are generally a lot more rules governing public pools than private/residential pools. When searching for the laws that apply to your situation, make sure you’re looking in the right place.

3. A pool fence or other barrier is in there somewhere. By far the most common type of pool safety law is to have a fence or other type of barrier around your pool. In many cases, the exact specifications of the barrier are based on guidelines published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don’t assume that your existing backyard fence makes the grade.

4. Your insurance company might have different requirements. Just to complicate things further, your home insurance policy may dictate safety features above and beyond what the law requires. For example, many insurers will not cover swimming pools with diving boards installed due to the increased liability. Even if there are no hard-and-fast requirements like that, you may find that building your pool with an eye toward safety is the only way to keep your premiums from skyrocketing.

5. Above ground pools aren’t necessarily excluded. Thinking of going with an above ground pool in order to avoid some of those onerous regulations? Better read the law carefully. In many cases, above ground pools – at least those of a certain depth – are treated the same as inground pools when it comes to safety laws.

Two young girls looking over the edge of an above ground pool, with a wooden fence in the background
Don’t assume above ground swimming pools aren’t impacted by your local pool safety laws.

6. They’re just a start. Keep in mind that pool safety laws represent the bare minimum. Regardless of what the law requires, you’ll probably want to take additional steps to make sure your pool is safe for both your family and the general public. This could mean installing a pool cover, water disturbance alarms, or other safety equipment not typically required by law.

It all sounds complicated, right? The good news is that an experienced pool builder can help you navigate the safety requirements in your area if you decide to move forward with the project.

Until then, you might want to do some basic research. After all, one of the most important safety rules of all is to know what you’re diving into.