California Swimming Pool Barrier Safety Act

California Swimming Pool Barrier Safety Act

Below is the California Swimming Pool Safety Act. It’s accurate but a little bit of a boring read. So we wanted to give you some insights from our years of pool fencing experience to accompany it. If you have more detailed question about barrier code, especially if you are building a pool give Northern California Pool Guard a call at 916.505.6861. 

Pool Guard has received hundreds of calls from customers and spoken to dozens of building inspectors about passing code for new pool plaster and new pool building as well as insurance questions.  Here are some basic facts about swimming pool code.

Yes you have to protect your pool. There are several options and combos of Fences, Safety Nets, Safe Pool Covers and door alarms. The city/county will inspect for this during your pool build. As a side note, technically anytime a inspector gets on your property, even for a non pool permit, they can enforce any violations of the California Swimming Pool Barrier code. This is not common but is possible.

Almost all insurance companies want you to meet code, a small amount (my guess is 10 percent) want you to have a second barrier between the pool and the house. Both the city/county and the insurance companies are not that interested in a home that has small children.  We are. My career has been about protecting children form the pool and I recommend taking the steps to have a barrier between the home and the pool. For that matter we recommend have multiple layers of protection from the pool.

However, here are the basics.

If you live in a track home style house with a 5 foot yard fence the solutions are easy and cheap. Alarm your sliders and or side garage door, and make sure your Fence gates swing toward the street and self close with latch at 5 feet. Cost 250 or less or 40-60 bucks and 1-2 hours of your time.

Not all pool builders are great and forewarning you of the swimming pool barrier code, so it can be a rush to complete before plaster.

If you have no property fence then get ready to spend some more money. Do not trick yourself in to thinking your chain link or horse fence counts for code. It’s time for a non-climbable 5 foot fence with self closing gate. It can be made of wood, block, iron or mesh removable pool fence. It just has to be non-climbable. A mesh fence around the pool should be on average 2000 dollars but can flux up or down by 500 or so depending distance and labor, as well as your choice of higher quality American made or lower economy Chinese import mesh fence.  The other fence options are more costly. Also you may choose a Pool Net or Pool Cover to pass. These are approved in the state code.

It’s smart to speak with your inspector about what you are going to do about passing Swimming Pool Barrier code ahead of time. Inspectors can get a little funny about the subject so it’s best not to catch them off guard on inspection day. When they are caught off guard their fallback answer will be no. Once they say no it’s hard for them to find their way back to yes.

Here are some quick links to Barrier code in the counties we cover.

Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Tuolumne, Yolo, Yuba

It’s true that the inspectors are allowed to not except everything in state code. California state barrier code is the minimum allowed. Each county or city may have more restrictive version of the law. A perfect example is Riverside county. Every city in Riverside county will except mesh pool fence for code. Most will expect pool nets or covers for code. Riverside county unincorporated will only except permanent block, iron or wood fence. For some properties with acreage that’s a difference between 2000-2500 all the way up to as much as 15000.

On a final note, you may see properties around town with no fence but next to a cliff. Properties that clearly don’t meet barrier code. These properties most likely were inspected pre-2007. Before 2007 inspectors had room to make reasonable decisions on how accessible a pool was to the public. Post 2007 change in California state barrier code law, inspectors lost that power and now all pool must meet barrier code to the T. This can be extreme at times now. A few years ago in Orange County one of our reps had to put a 5 foot mesh pool fence on a side of a cliff to get a pool to pass. Anyone falling down the cliff wouldn’t be worried about the pool once they reached the bottom, if you know what I mean.

If you need more info we have expert pool fence dealer all over California. This post for Sacramento area, however for the rest of the state check out for our other dealers.

Now here is the Code:



California Swimming Pool Barrier Safety Act


SECTION 115920-115929

Swimming Pool Safety Act

115920. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Swimming Pool Safety Act

115921. As used in this article the following terms have the following meanings:

(a) “Swimming pool” or “pool” means any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 18 inches deep.  “Swimming pool” includes in-ground and above-ground structures and includes, but is not limited to, hot tubs, spas, portable spas, and nonportable wading pools.

(b) “Public swimming pool” means a swimming pool operated for the use of the general public with or without charge, or for the use of the members and guests of a private club.  Public swimming pool does not include a swimming pool located on the grounds of a private single-family home.

(c) “Enclosure” means a fence, wall, or other barrier that isolates a swimming pool from access to the home.

(d) “Approved safety pool cover” means a manually or power-operated safety pool cover that meets all of the performance standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), in compliance with standard F1346-91.

(e) “Exit alarms” means devices that make audible, continuous alarm sounds when any door or window, that permits access from the residence to the pool area that is without any intervening enclosure, is opened or is left ajar.  Exit alarms may be battery operated or may be connected to the electrical wiring of the building.

115922. (a) Commencing January 1, 2007, except as provided in Section 115925, whenever a building permit is issued for construction of a new swimming pool or spa, or any building permit is issued for remodeling of an existing pool or spa, at a private, single-family home, it shall be equipped with at least one of the following seven drowning prevention safety features:

(1) The pool shall be isolated from access to a home by an enclosure that meets the requirements of Section 115923.

(2) The pool shall incorporate removable mesh pool fencing that meets American `Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Specifications F 2286 standards in conjunction with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching and can accommodate a key lockable device.

(3) The pool shall be equipped with an approved safety pool cover that meets all requirements of the ASTM Specifications F 1346.

(4) The residence shall be equipped with exit alarms on those doors providing direct access to the pool.

(5) All doors providing direct access from the home to the swimming pool shall be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor.

(6) Swimming pool alarms that, when placed in pools, will sound upon detection of accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. These pool alarms shall meet and be independently certified to the ASTM Standard F 2208 “Standards Specification for Pool Alarms” which includes surface motion, pressure, sonar, laser, and infrared type alarms. For purposes of this article, “swimming pool alarms” shall not include swimming protection alarm devices designed for individual use, such as an alarm attached to a child that sounds when the child exceeds a certain distance or becomes submerged in water.

(7) Other means of protection, if the degree of protection afforded is equal to or greater than that afforded by any of the devices set forth above, and have been independently verified by an approved testing laboratory as meeting standards for those devices established by the ASTM or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

(b) Prior to the issuance of any final approval for the completion of permitted construction or remodeling work, the local building code official shall inspect the drowning safety prevention devices required by this act and if no violations are found, shall give final approval.

115923. An enclosure shall have all of the following characteristics:

(a) Any access gates through the enclosure open away from the swimming pool, and are self-closing with a self-latching device placed no lower than 60 inches above the ground.

(b) A minimum height of 60 inches.

(c) A maximum vertical clearance from the ground to the bottom of the enclosure of two inches.

(d) Gaps or voids, if any, do not allow passage of a sphere equal to or greater than four inches in diameter.

(e) An outside surface free of protrusions, cavities, or other physical characteristics that would serve as handholds or footholds that could enable a child below the age of five years to climb over.

115924. (a) Any person entering into an agreement to build a swimming pool or spa, or to engage in permitted work on a pool or spa covered by this article, shall give the consumer notice of the requirements of this article.

(b) Pursuant to existing law, the Department of Health Services shall have available on the department’s Web site, commencing January 1, 2007, approved pool safety information available for consumers to download. Pool contractors are encouraged to share this information with consumers regarding the potential dangers a pool or spa poses to toddlers. Additionally, pool contractors may provide the consumer with swimming pool safety materials produced from organizations such as the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Drowning Prevention Foundation, California Coalition for Children’s Safety & Health, Safe Kids Worldwide, Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, or the American Academy of Pediatrics.

115925. The requirements of this article shall not apply to any of the following:

(a) Public swimming pools.

(b) Hot tubs or spas with locking safety covers that comply with the American Society for Testing Materials-Emergency Performance Specification (ASTM-ES 13-89).

(c) Any pool within the jurisdiction of any political subdivision that adopts an ordinance for swimming pool safety that includes requirements that are at least as stringent as this article.

(d) An apartment complex, or any residential setting other than a single-family home.

115926. This article does not apply to any facility regulated by the State Department of Social Services even if the facility is also used as the private residence of the operator.  Pool safety in those facilities shall be regulated pursuant to regulations adopted therefor by the State Department of Social Services.

115927. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, this article shall not be subject to further modification or interpretation by any regulatory agency of the state, this authority being reserved exclusively to local jurisdictions, as provided for in subdivision (e) of Section 115922 and subdivision (c) of Section 115924.

115928. Whenever a building permit is issued for the construction of a new swimming pool or spa, the pool or spa shall meet all of the following requirements:

(a) (1) The suction outlet of the pool or spa for which the permit is issued shall be equipped to provide circulation throughout the pool or spa as prescribed in paragraph (2).

(2) The swimming pool or spa shall have at least two circulation drains per pump that shall be hydraulically balanced and symmetrically plumbed through one or more “T” fittings, and that are separated by a distance of at least three feet in any dimension between the drains.

(b) Suction outlets that are less than 12 inches across shall be covered with  antientrapment grates, as specified in the ASME/ANSI Standard A 112.19.8, that cannot be removed except with the use of tools. Slots or openings in the grates or similar protective devices shall be of a shape, area, and arrangement that would prevent physical entrapment and would not pose any suction hazard to bathers.

(c) Any backup safety system that an owner of a new swimming pool or spa may choose to install in addition to the requirements set forth in subdivisions (a) and (b) shall meet the standards as published in the document, “Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards: Making Pools and Spas Safer,” Publication Number 363, March 2005, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. (d) Whenever a building permit is issued for the remodel or modification of a single family home with an existing swimming pool, toddler pool, or spa, the permit shall require that the suction outlet of the existing swimming pool, toddler pool, or spa be upgraded so as to be equipped with an antientrapment cover meeting current standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

115929. (a) The Legislature encourages a private entity, in consultation with the Epidemiology and Prevention for Injury Control Branch of the department, to produce an informative brochure or booklet, for consumer use, explaining the child drowning hazards of, possible safety measures for, and appropriate drowning hazard prevention measures for, home swimming pools and spas, and to donate the document to the department.

(b) The Legislature encourages the private entity to use existing documents from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission on pool safety.

(c) If a private entity produces the document described in subdivisions (a) and (b) and donates it to the department, the department shall review and approve the brochure or booklet.

(d) Upon approval of the document by the department, the document shall become the property of the state and a part of the public domain.  The department shall place the document on its Web site in a format that is readily available for downloading and for publication.  The department shall review the document in a timely and prudent fashion and shall complete the review within 18 months of receipt of the document from a private entity.

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