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Ontario’s Application of Public Pool and Spa Regulations Reveals Inconsistencies

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Ontario's Application of Public Pool and Spa Regulations Reveals Inconsistencies

The enforcement of provincial public pool and spa regulations in Ontario has come under scrutiny recently due to seemingly arbitrary application. A resort in Haliburton was forced to close its private hot tubs in response to orders from the local health unit, shedding light on the inconsistencies.

Buttermilk Falls Resort, located in the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District (HKPR), was instructed by the HKPR Health Unit to shut down its five hot tubs available for rent in private suites. The reason cited was the lack of drowning safety equipment, emergency landline, and shower facilities, among other violations.

Stephen Orr, the owner of Buttermilk Falls Resort, expressed his bewilderment at the situation, stating that the hot tubs were already safe and questioning the necessity of additional safety measures. He also noted that neighboring jurisdictions had not enforced these rules in a similar manner. The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario confirmed that the HKPR Health Unit was the only one known to apply these regulations in this manner.

The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, which oversees another tourism-heavy area in the province’s cottage country, stated that it does not enforce the regulations on private spas within rental units exclusively intended for occupants’ use.

Bernard Mayer, the manager of environmental health at the HKPR Health Unit, explained that resort hot tubs fall under the purview of the provincial public pool and spa regulations, which are typically applied to large public pools with communal hot tubs. The health unit became aware of these violations when an order was issued to one of the properties last year. They are currently investigating other resorts for non-compliance with pool and public spa rules under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

In a recent appeal to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board, Haliburton’s Lakeview Motel argued that private-use hot tubs should be treated differently from public spas since they are only accessible to guests staying in four specific units. The regulations provide an exemption for properties with five or fewer suites. However, the review board upheld the order, citing a total of 14 “dwelling units” at Lakeview Motel.

Mayer clarified that the number of people using or having access to a hot tub is not the determining factor. The regulation is based on the number of rooms and suites available for rent on the property.

When questioned about the scope of the regulations, the Ontario Ministry of Health declined to provide specific details and instead stated that the application and enforcement of these provincial regulations and inspections are the responsibility of local public health units.

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International Swimming Pool and Spa Code to Become Law in Maryland

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Compliance

The code will strengthen pool and spa safety and efficiency statewide

(Annapolis, MD) – Governor Larry Hogan announced that House Bill 303 will become law in Maryland and greatly advance swimming pool and spa safety and efficiency throughout the state. House Bill 303, sponsored by Delegate Dana Stein (District 11, Baltimore County) and Senator Cory McCray (District 45, Baltimore City), will require Maryland to use the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) as the new minimum standard, effective December 31, 2023, for building swimming pools and spas.  

The adoption of the ISPSC enhances the safety and efficiency of pools and spas by applying a consistent, uniform construction and safety code that is based on proven best practices for drowning prevention and energy efficiency. The ISPSC is currently used in over 30 states in the U.S., including Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey. 

“On behalf of the industry and a diverse coalition of supporters, we applaud the General Assembly and Governor Hogan for passing and enacting HB 303,” said Justin Wiley, PHTA Vice President of Government Relations, Standards and Codes. “This safety-focused law takes a significant step toward modernizing Maryland’s building codes and standards for swimming pools and spas.” 

House Bill 303 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House of Delegates and the Senate. The bill was supported by the International Code Council, Pool and Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) and a coalition of businesses, regulators, first responders and safety professionals, including the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Building Officials Association, the Maryland Fire Marshal Committee, the Maryland State Firefighter’s Association and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. 

“This adoption ensures a safe and comprehensive code for the design and construction of swimming pools in Maryland,” said Frank Quillen, President of the Maryland Building Officials Association. “The ISPSC coordinates with the other building safety codes adopted in Maryland to create a consistent regulatory framework for both building safety professionals and for builders.” 

The legislation requires the Maryland Department of Labor to adopt the ISPSC as a baseline code for the state and allows for local jurisdictions to enforce and amend the code as necessary. More importantly, the ISPSC correlates with local laws and regulations that are already established.  

“The adoption, implementation and enforcement of modern codes and standards play an important role in keeping communities safe, resilient and affordable” said Gabe Maser, Code Council Senior Vice President of Government Relations. “The Code Council commends Maryland for the adoption of the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code and their efforts to ensure the state is using the most up-to-date safety and efficiency standards.”  

The signing and implementation of House Bill 303 will afford all jurisdictions access to grants for training on the ISPSC under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA). The VGBA is a United States law named after Virginia Graeme Baker, who died after sustaining a pool suction-drain injury in June 2002. It is incorporated as Title 14 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA Title 14, Pub.L. 110-140). This act became enforceable law on December 19, 2008. 

The incorporation of the ISPSC in Maryland will follow the same process the state already uses for most building codes in practice, such as the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC) which are enforced and amended by the counties. 

“The PHTA Mid-Atlantic Chapter is happy to see that Governor Hogan is allowing the ISPSC to become law. This will help to improve safety around public and private pools and spas across the great state of Maryland,” said Brian St. Clair, President of the PHTA Mid-Atlantic chapter. “The public can find comfort in knowing that the ISPSC will hold companies to the highest safety standards, helping to reduce drownings, ER visits, and accidents around pools. It will also help to consolidate code compliance for new construction and renovations of pools and spas, helping to streamline the building process for local companies. Thank you, Governor Hogan, for helping to keep Marylanders safe while enjoying the pools and spas across this wonderful state!” 

You can view the 2021 ISPSC Digital Code here. 

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PHTA/ICC-10 Standard For Elevated Pools, Spas And Other Aquatic Venues

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Lightning & Pools Don't Mix

PHTA WELCOMES PUBLIC COMMENTS ON A NEW PHTA/ICC-10 STANDARD FOR ELEVATED POOLS, SPAS AND OTHER AQUATIC VENUES INTEGRATED INTO A BUILDING OR STRUCTURE

(Alexandria, Va.) – The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) is inviting public review and comments on a new PHTA/ICC-10 Standard for Elevated Pools, Spas and Other Aquatic Venues Integrated into a Building or Structure. Public review is an important part of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards consensus development process.

The purpose of the PHTA/ICC-10 standard is to establish minimum standards to provide a reasonable level of safety and protection to the structure into which the elevated pool is integrated. Safety and protection of health and public welfare are regulated by the applicable pool codes and standards that control the design, construction, installation, quality of materials, location and maintenance or use of pools, spas or other aquatic venues.

Elevated pools are integrated into a structure, they are a subsystem of the structure, and they need to be designed to interact with other building subsystems in ways that do not cause damage.

“An elevated pool is an inseparable part of the building it’s on, and it needs to be designed accordingly. This standard creates a framework for best practices while still providing flexibility for professional designers. For example, all installations must include secondary containment with appropriate drainage, and there are specific criteria for inspection, maintenance, and repair,” said Mark Trapani, PHTA-10 Standard Writing Committee (SWC) Chair and President of Upstream Pools. “This standard is a significant step forward for public safety and property protection because there is currently no requirement to minimize the risk of water infiltration into habitable areas or critical building structural components.”

PHTA invites all pool and hot tub professionals, as well as non-industry members, to review the draft and submit comments for consideration. The ANSI public review announcement on the required 45-day public review period was published in the ANSI Standards Action on July 9, 2021. All public review comments on the PHTA/ICC-10 standard are due by Monday, August 23, 2021.

The following individuals participated on the PHTA-10 SWC and contributed their collective expertise over the past year:

Mark Trapani, Chair, Upstream Pools (Fairfield, NJ)
Lee Clifton, (retired)
Corry Cloward, Cloward H2O (Provo, UT)
Jeff Hammons, Sr., JHam Group Consulting, LLC (Fort Washington, PA)
Rob Holmer, H2 Engineers, Inc. (Sacramento, CA)
Vito Mariano, Basecrete Technologies (Sarasota, FL)
Stephen Neville, Stainless Aquatics, A Division of Island Construction Corporation (Del Mar, CA)
Gene Novak, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Public Safety & Inspections (Framingham, MA)
Michael Sage, Bradford Products, LLC (Leland, NC)
Shawn Strausbaugh, International Code Council (York, PA)
Michael Weinbaum, P.E., Martin Aquatic Design & Engineering (Orlando, FL)

To request an electronic copy of the draft standard for review and comment, please email standards@phta.org or call (703) 838-0083.

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About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with nearly 3,500 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $36.5B pool, hot tub, and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge, and profitability. Additionally, PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety, and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer, and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit www.phta.org.

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