There still is a movement afoot in Florida to put the spotlight on electrical safety in pools and spas, perhaps through government mandates. Last year, after Miami-Dade and Broward Counties outlawed high-voltage pool and spa lights, companion bills were introduced to prohibit the installation of lights over 15 volts, require periodic light inspections, and compel those selling homes with pools to provide a disclosure statement to prospects about the potential hazards of high-voltage pool lights. After pool-industry objections, the bills failed to pass.
To keep the electrical safety issue alive, a senator introduced an amendment to an annual bill in which the state building code is updated. The clause proposed formation of the Calder Sloan Swimming Pool Electrical-Safety Task Force, named after the 7-year-old boy whose death has spurred action in the state, to explore what kinds of safety measures should be instituted. This solution went unopposed by the industry and was primed to pass when internal drama spurred the legislature to end its session prematurely, indirectly killing scores of bills.
Now it’s time for Round Two, as it were.
In early October, bills were introduced in both the state's legislative chambers to pick up where last session left off and institute the Calder Sloan Swimming Pool 2 Electrical-Safety Task Force. House Bill 295 and Senate Bill 530 await their first committee hearings. In their current form, the bills would require that the task force conduct a study and submit a report to the Governor and other officials by Nov. 1, 2016, recommending ways to reduce electrocution risks in pools and spas. This task force would consist of two committees that serve on the Florida Building Commission - one covering electrical, the other pools and spas - and be chaired by the pool industry's representative on the FBC.
But the FBC seems to have beat these bills to the punch. In October, the same two committees met to discuss several electrical safety measures that could be instituted statewide, including a possible building code requirement that underwater lights be low voltage.
So far, only two proposals have received enough support to move forward. In the first, the state would initiate some kind of education for consumers, contractors and home inspectors regarding pool and spa electrical safety. Informational materials such as flyers, courses and web information was discussed, with an emphasis on utilizing existing resources from trade groups, safety advocates and other interested parties. After unanimously supporting the proposal, the committees recommended it to the full FBC, which approved it.
The group also voted to explore a requirement that GFCIs be added to all circuits feeding equipment that could energize a new residential or commercial pool. And the electrical committee submitted a proposal to require GFCI protection for replacement pool pump motors, both residential and commercial, and replacement 120-volt pool lights. The FBC approved these ideas as well.
Meetings to flesh out the implementation of these plans are expected in the future, as are discussions of additional ways to safeguard pools and spas, such as requiring plastic niches or nichless lighting, or monitoring devices to detect stray current.
One thing is for sure, say observers of all stripes: This issue is not going away in the Sunshine State.