pool materials

Changes in the Virginia Graeme Baker Act

In Ask the Pool Experts by Platinum Pools


In 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Act sent waves to the pool and spa industry to eliminate the danger of drain entrapment. The implementation of the law caused controversy at the time. Since then, the law drastically helped to reduce the number of entrapments, avoiding injuries and saving lives. 

The Backbone of the VGBA

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (P& SS Act) takes its name from Virginia Graeme Baker or Graeme. In June 2002, Graeme got stuck in a hot tub drain and was challenging to pull out. Efforts by her mother to free Graeme from the drain were unsuccessful. Two men who finally freed Graeme from the hot tub pulled so hard that the drain’s cover broke from the force. Graeme died by drowning, but the actual cause was suction caused by a defective drain cover.

Updates in 2021

The updated enactment of the ASSP-16/2017 standard brought significant changes. According to many members of the swimming pool industry, the changes will impact public pool owners, operators, and anyone who installs, constructs, or maintains swimming pools with an intake. In other words, manufacturers have stopped producing the old VGBA-2008 drain covers. 

The VGBA 2008 drain covers are still valid, legal, and available on company shelves. However, purchasing and using the new VGBA 2017 drain covers has new installation requirements, including regulations on the product packaging. So, if your pool has the VGBA 2008 drain cover, the old restrictions apply, while the VGBA 2017 drain cover is subject to the new regulations.

Check the Drain Cover

Not all old drains have the VGBA 2008 label or color-coded dots, and some old gutters have different designations. Make sure it has the blue dot and the stamp “VGBA 2017” on the cover.

The Responsible Role of Following Standards and Codes

All new drains have new instructions on flow rates, pipe sizes, and sump depths. You must follow these new rules to make the installation legal.

The rules include a flow rate for each pipe size and sump configuration, which means a minimum sump depth of three inches. 

The Responsibility of Abiding to the Law

The VGBA has always applied to public pools. Under federal law, a public pool must be closed immediately if a drain cover is missing, broken, or expired. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that residential pools are out from abiding regulations.

There is no federal oversight for private pools. However, a homeowner must keep it intact to avoid accidents and lawsuits. In addition, homeowners insurance will not cover an accident if a drain cover is not in place or repaired. Owners of private pools must not allow swimming when the pump is on, or the cover is missing. 

The bottom line is that homeowners with swimming pools and owners of public oases must comply with the VGBA federal law. We recommend hiring a professional to do the installation.

Don’t Sit on the “SOFA”

A new term for the new 2017 VGBA regulation is “SOFA” which means “Suction Outlet Fitting Assembly.” “SOFA” is a multi-piece drain with a cover, a riser ring or cap, and a vented riser ring, all parts that come with the drain cover.

It’s Time to Change the Lid 

No matter what system is available, VGBA covers have a five-year lifespan.

We encourage you to contact your pool company for more information about VGBA covers. Our service representatives at Platinum Pools will be happy to assist you. Don’t forget to visit our website or call us at 281.870.1600.