Drowning is the leading cause of death of young children and a significant cause of death of medically frail elderly persons in this state. Constant supervision is the best way to prevent drownings. Cognizant, however, that supervision is not always available, the Florida Legislature has devised a statutory scheme designed to deny, delay, or detect unsupervised entry to swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. The scheme is set forth in Chapter 515 of the Florida Statutes.
In order to pass final inspection and receive a certificate of completion, a residential swimming pool must meet at least one of the following requirements relating to pool safety features:
- The pool must be surrounded by a perimeter barrier that (1) is at least 4 feet high; (2) does not not contain any features which would allow children to crawl under, squeeze through, or climb over it; and (3) is set far enough away from the pool’s edge so that a child or elderly person who has penetrated the barrier does not immediately fall into the pool. (The perimeter barrier is required even if the residential yard is surrounded by a fence, wall, or other enclosure unless the fence, wall, or other enclosure or portion thereof is situated on the perimeter of the pool, is being used as part of the barrier, and meets the barrier requirements of the statute.)
- The pool must be equipped with an approved safety pool cover. An “approved safety pool cover” can be manually- or power-operated and must meet certain delineated standards established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
- All doors and windows providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with an exit alarm that has a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dB A at 10 feet. “Exit alarm” means a device that makes audible, continuous alarm sounds when any door or window which permits access from the residence to any pool area that is without an intervening enclosure – a perimeter barrier (see the first bullet point, above) – is opened or left ajar.
- All doors providing direct access from the home to the pool must be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor.
A person who fails to equip a new residential swimming pool with at least one of the pool safety features outlined above, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree. This has significance in the context of civil cases arising out of pool accident cases, in that violations of statutes can be considered evidence of negligence (see Florida Standard Jury Instruction 401.9). Conversely, being in full compliance with the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (Chapter 515), provides some insulation to the property owner against being found at fault.
Other pool safety requirements include:
- Gates that provide access to swimming pools must open outward away from the pool and be self-closing and equipped with a self-latching locking device, the release mechanism of which must be located on the pool side of the gate and so placed that it cannot be reached by a young child over the top or through any opening or gap.
- A barrier may not be located in a way that allows any permanent structure, equipment, or similar object to be used for climbing the barrier.
Do not rely on this blog for the fine details of Florida’s Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act and other legal requirements. Consult with a pool safety expert!!!
Contact us at 866-785-GALE or by email to learn your legal rights.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.