Even a momentary lapse in judgment can result in drowning or other serious injury when at or near a swimming pool.  As such, California imposes a variety of rules known as the Swimming Pool Safety Act on the owners of swimming pools.  The Swimming Pool Safety Act sets out the rules that pool owners must follow to build, maintain and supervise a swimming pool.

Common Swimming Pool Injuries

Negligent use, construction, maintenance or supervision of a pool can result in death or serious injuries including:

  • Drowning (such as from negligent supervision or failure to maintain safety rails)
  • Brain trauma and spinal cord injuries (such as from falls or diving into shallow areas)
  • Entrapments in pool drains (such as from failure to use drain covers)
  • Cuts or lacerations (such as from damaged rails or objects like glass or metal in the pool)
  • Injuries resulting improperly stored or maintained equipment
  • Burns from excessive cleaning chemicals
  • Infections and other illnesses cause by unclean water (such as from improper cleaning, filtration or chemical use)

Common Causes of Swimming Pool Injuries

Because the risk of death or injury is so great, it is essential for pool owners and operators to be aware of their duties and responsibilities.  Improper supervision of the pool, or unsafe conditions at the pool or adjacent area, can result in liability for the pool owner.  Pool owners may be held liable for any of the following:

  • Failure to properly maintain and secure equipment
  • Failure to lock or secure a gate
  • Permitting children to enter the pool without supervision
  • Improperly mixing or applying cleaning chemicals
  • Failure to maintain handrails, guardrails and other safety devices
  • Failure to maintain anti-slip surfaces on the area surrounding the pool
  • Failure to install safety signs (including pool depth)
  • Failure to properly maintain pool drains
  • Failure to maintain adequate supervision

Swimming Pool Safety Requirements

The Swimming Pool Safety Act requires California pool owners to maintain at least two of the following safety measures at their pool:

  1. A protective enclosure to prevent trespassers from entering
  2. A self-closing, self-latching, lockable gate with a mesh fence
  3. An approved safety pool cover
  4. An alarm which will sound if someone falls in the pool
  5. An alarm which will sound if the gate or door to the pool is opened
  6. A self-closing, self-latching door between the pool and the home (at least 54 inches high)
  7. Other forms of protection

Furthermore, California pool owners must meet sanitation and other safety requirements such as California Building Safety Code (CBSC), Chapter 31B which sets forth a number of rules regarding:

  • Appropriate signs and markers (CBSC §3110B and §3120B)
  • Specific requirements for ladders, stairs, handrails and handholds (CBSC §3111B and §3112B)
  • Lighting requirements and night time use (CBSC §3115B)
  • Enclosures, walls and gates (CBSC §3119B)
  • Diving boards (CBSC §3113B)
  • Water circulation, cleaning and filtration (CBSC §3140B and §3123B-§3141B)

Special Rules for Public Pools

Under California law, a public pool is one operated for the use of the general public, with or without a charge.  A public pool does not include one located at a private, single-family residence.  A public pool may include one at a private club, hotel, motel, inn, apartment complex, municipality, or any residential setting other than a single-family home.

California law places additional duties of care on those responsible for maintaining public pools, over and above what is required of private pools.  For example, a public pool must be equipped with an anti-entrapment device and must have a qualified lifeguard on duty if a fee is charged.  California Code of Regulations, Chapter 20 sets forth a variety of other rules which apply specifically to public pools including records requirements, employee health and safety requirements and prohibition of animals.

Additional information about California pool safety requirements and ways that pool owners can keep their pool safe is available here from the California Department of Public Health.


California Legislative Information (Swimming Pool Safety Act)

California Legislative Information (California Health and Safety Code §116040)

California Legislative Information (Swimming Pool Safety Act §115921)

California Department of Public Health

California Legislative Information (Swimming Pool Safety Act §116045)

Westlaw/Thomson Reuters (California Code of Regulations §65521-§65551)

California Department of Public Health

California Building Standards Commission, Digital Codes Library (2019 California Building Code, Chapter 31B)