Swimming pools are fun for both children and adults. But to those who can't swim, they can prove a danger. The state of Louisiana seeks to preclude swimming accidents by requiring barriers like fencing to be installed around all public swimming pools. The Louisiana Administrative Code Title 51 details the minimum that's required for swimming pool barriers.
Although private swimming pools are not included in the edict, a homeowner leaves their pool unfenced at their own risk. Those planning to install a pool in Louisiana would do well to get an overview of the state's pool fencing laws.
Swimming Pools Rewards
Few people need reminding about the benefits of a swimming pool, especially in a hot, humid climate. Louisiana residents enjoy a dip in the water on a hot summer day as much as anyone, and swimming laps is considered an excellent aerobic exercise.
In fact, swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in this country. Just two hours and 30 minutes a week can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease. The CDC reports that swimmers cut their risk of death in half, when compared with inactive people, and the sport is accessible even to those who suffer from joint or muscle pain when doing on-land exercises.
Swimming Pools Risks
On the risk side of the analysis, people drown in swimming pools every year. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, some 400 children under the age of 15 years die every year in this country, with the vast majority being younger than 5.
Child drownings are, and have been for some years, among the leading causes of accidental death for children between the ages of one and four in the United States. And even near-drownings can cause brain damage leading to learning disabilities or permanent loss of basic functioning.
Preventing Child Drownings
Obviously, teaching children to swim and supervising them carefully around swimming pools can play a large role in preventing child drownings. But sometimes situations happen where a curious child, unfamiliar with the dangers of water, slips past adult protections and into the water.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests that, to prevent this, multiple layers of barriers should be required around a pool, including fencing. Note that these barrier guidelines are not a CPSC standard, nor do they create mandatory requirements. They are simply pool safety feature recommendations that would make pools safer. Many states mandate barriers or fencing for some pools, including Louisiana.
Types of Swimming Pool Regulation
Anyone considering installing a pool, public or residential, needs to understand that the laws covering this area have several layers: federal, state, parish and city laws. It's important to work with a company who takes all of these laws seriously and understands them. Some general rules apply.
- Federal laws apply across the country, setting minimum standards required for public and residential pools.
- State laws can be more, but not less, restrictive than federal laws.
- Parishes can implement their own stricter pool laws.
- City and town pool laws can add additional restrictions to other pool laws.
Louisiana Laws on Pool Barriers
Louisiana State law requires barriers around certain types of pools, including Class A swimming pools (those used for competitions or diving) and Class B swimming pools (those with walls exceeding 2.9 feet). In this case, "barrier" is defined to include a "fence, wall, building, enclosure or solid wall of durable material."
Louisiana codes specify that the fences and barriers used to reduce the risks of swimming pool drownings must be constructed to eliminate the possibility of climbing over them from the outside. Any foothold areas must be eliminated, and the barriers must be at least 4 feet high.
In addition, the Louisiana Administrative Code mandates that swimming pool area gates be self-closing and self-latching. All latches on gates must be placed at least 3.75 feet above the ground to prevent small children from opening them.
Day Care Center Swimming Pools
Although some may find ordinary Louisiana swimming pool barrier laws stringent, the state imposes even stricter fencing codes on pools in day care centers. Those apply not just to large in-ground pools, but also to wading pools and all above-ground pools.
If a day care center has a pool or is near any body of water, a barrier blocking that water must be at least 5 feet tall. The fence must also come close to the ground to prevent kids from crawling under it. The law requires that it be no more than 3.5 inches from the ground. Any holes or openings in the barrier must be no bigger than 3.5 inches in diameter.
These extra precautions for day care facilities are generally in line with some of those recommended by the Center for Disease Control. That agency suggests that:
- Barriers around pools should be no more than 2 inches above the ground.
- Holes should be no bigger than 4 inches in diameter.
- Swimming pool fence gates should swing away from the swimming area.
- Door latches should be on the inside of the swimming area.
- Alarms should be installed to go off when the fence is opened.
- Residential pool doors have self-locking latches and be connected to the alarm.
Residential Pool Barriers in Louisiana
There is no state law in Louisiana that requires a homeowner to secure a swimming pool or other such space at their private residence. However, under Title 33, Section 4875.1 which governs the exercise of police power regarding the enclosure of residential and commercial swimming pools, the state authorizes parishes and municipalities to enact ordinances on this subject under their police powers. The law states:
"For the purpose of promoting the health, safety and general welfare of the community, parish and municipal governing authorities may adopt ordinances regulating the enclosure of residential and commercial swimming pools. The ordinance shall provide for minimum heights for fences or walls enclosing the pool and locking or limited access gates."
Some, but not all, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana have regulated residential pool fencing. Louisiana residents in those cities need to comply with the local barrier requirements. And even homeowners in municipalities and parishes without such laws should consider some pool protection.
Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Louisiana courts recognize a legal doctrine termed "attractive nuisance." This provides that some potentially dangerous features of a property can make it attractive to children, causing them to enter. Swimming pools are one of those features. If the pool owner does not take appropriate action to safeguard against injuries, they can be held liable under the attractive nuisance doctrine.
That is, if a child comes onto private property uninvited and is injured by falling into the swimming pool, the pool might be called an attractive nuisance. The defense that the injured person was a trespasser typically doesn’t work well, especially when applied to a young child.
- Louisiana Administrative Code: Title 51, Part XXIV
- CDC: Health Benefits Water Exercise
- U.S.News: Child Drownings in U.S. Pools, Spas Are on the Rise
- CDC: Updated CDC Guidance for Healthy Pools
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools
- Mike Brandner Law: Louisiana Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
- Justia: Title 33 - Municipalities and Parishes
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.