FRP: Improving Pool Safety After the Virginia Graeme Baker Act

Fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP) have a long history of use in leisure and recreational water applications. They are often used as an alternative to vinyl liner and concrete designs – particularly in residential installations – and they offer unmatched material versatility for peripheral pool architectures. Barriers, drain covers, even recreational structures can be manufactured using FRP.

The benefits of using composites in pool manufacturing extend far beyond the aesthetic and structural. Since 2008, the rules and considerations regarding pool safety have changed significantly. Federal regulations now mandate that all public pools and spas must feature drainage covers accredited to ASME/ANSI standards. In fact, any drain cover intended for use in pools and spas – public or residential – must be manufactured to the same standards before distribution. This is in accordance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA) of 2008. FRP is the ideal material for improving pool safety in-line with current pool safety standards.

What is the Virginia Graeme Baker Act?

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA) came into effect in 2008 after a tragic drowning occurred in a hot tub in 2002. The victim, Virginia Graeme Baker was seven years old and a keen swimmer, having been able to swim unassisted for almost four years prior.  This traumatic event highlighted a disparity in public knowledge; while the physical dangers of drowning were widely publicized, those of ‘suction entrapment’ were relatively unknown.

VGBA Compliant FRP Components

Drain covers are the primary focus of the VGBA as poorly maintained / optimized drainage systems are the primary cause of suction entrapment and subsequent drowning by entrapment in both public and residential pools. In 2007, there were 74 reports of suction entrapment, 9 of which were fatal – 7 of those fatalities occurred in residential pools.

Suction entrapment can occur when swimmers come into contact with compromised drainage systems, where suction forces can exceed 350 pounds (lbs). This can cause parts of the body to become pinned to the drainage inlet, causing injury and – in severe cases – death by drowning. The VGBA aimed to eliminate this critical safety factor by mandating new standards for long-lasting drainage performance in typical swimming pool conditions. FRP is subsequently the ideal material for meeting the highest safety standards in swimming pools and spas.

FRP gratings are routinely used for pool and spa drainage systems due to their outstanding impact and tensile strengths and excellent chemical integrity. They are virtually maintenance-free and will not corrode due to exposure from common pool chemicals (i.e. chlorine) and contaminants.

At Strongwell, we supply DURADEK® and DURAGRID® FRP grating for recreational water and leisure applications. They are the ideal solution for VGBA-compliant drainage systems, providing years of uninterrupted service as proven by accelerated weathering tests using ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If you would like to read the full results of our FRP grating UV weathering tests, follow the link below:

Strongwell Grating Meets Virginia Graeme Baker Act UV Requirements

FRP Pool Systems from Strongwell

Strongwell is an industry-leading supplier of FRP solutions for a broad range of application areas. We are committed to meeting the highest regulatory standards in all market segments, to combat avoidable health and safety risks that could affect anyone in the community. If you would like to learn more about how our FRP grating meets and exceed the standards of federal and state-level regulations, simply contact a member of the Strongwell team today.