An outdoor swimming pool barrier is a physical obstacle that surrounds a pool or spa so that access to the water is limited to adults.

Image of BarrierThe Pool Safely campaign emphasizes the importance of installing barriers as you adopt water safety steps for residential and public pools and spas. An outdoor swimming pool barrier is a physical obstacle that surrounds an outdoor pool or spa so that access to the water is limited to adults. A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting over, under or through it to gain access to the pool or spa.

Another benefit of barriers is they give parents additional time to locate a child before the unexpected becomes a reality. Barriers commonly include a fence, wall or gate.

Recommendations on Fences and Walls

  • The fence or other barrier should be at least four feet high or taller. It should have no footholds or handholds that could help a young child to climb it.
  • Vertical fence slats should be less than four inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through.
  • If the fence is chain link, then no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches.
  • The maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed four inches above grade.

For above-ground pools, there are two recommended ways to prevent young children from climbing into the pool. The steps or ladder into the pool can be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or a barrier such as a fence can surround the steps or ladder.

Recommendations on Gates

  • Fence gates should open out from the pool and should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of a child’s reach.
  • If a gate is properly designed, even if the gate is not completely latched, a young child pushing on the gate to enter the pool area will at least close the gate and may actually engage the latch.
  • The release mechanism for the gate should be at least three inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool.
  • The gate should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

View the Pool Safely educational videos on pool and spa fencing and gates and other topics

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Seven-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker’s tragic death inspired her family to advocate for pool and spa safety and moved Congress to act to prevent entrapments. 
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The Pool and Spa Safety Act: Staff interpretation and updates


Find the most up to date requirements for the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.