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January 2003 For all owners/operators of hot tubs, spas and whirlpools

In August 2001, a 13-year-old drowned after becoming entrapped on the drain at the bottom of a hot tub. Following the coroner's investigation of this tragedy, Ontario's Chief Coroner made a number of recommendations to prevent such tragedies in the future. In response, the province enacted regulatory requirements for new or renovated hot tubs, spas and whirlpools, as follows:

Section A: Requirements for NEW hot tubs, spas and whirlpools

All new public spa installations or existing facilities undergoing renovations, requiring building permits, must comply with the Ontario Building Code (OBC). As of November 3, 2002, an amendment to the OBC (O. Reg. 220/02) mandated a number of measures intended to minimize the risk of injury or death in these facilities, including:

  1. emergency shut-off switch, telephone and signage;
  2. vacuum release device connected to the water suction system;
  3. special drain covers designed to reduce the risk of body entrapment;
  4. minimum of two separately located suction outlets (drains); and
  5. limits on the water flow velocity in the piping of the water jets system.

These measures do not reflect all of the provisions in O. Reg. 220/02. The full set requirements of the OBC for public spas should be read in their entirety, and owners, operators, designers, installers, etc., should consult with the local building department for more information.

Section B: Requirements for EXISTING hot tubs, spas and whirlpools

Ontario's Chief Coroner also recommended that existing hot tubs, spas and whirlpools be retrofitted to reduce the risk of entrapment to the users of these facilities. The recommendations for retrofitting include the following:

  1. A clearly marked emergency shut-off switch complete with audible and visual alarm, separate from the hot tub's timing device, is installed on a wall adjacent to the hot tub. A sign containing the words "IN THE EVENT OF EMERGENCY, PUSH EMERGENCY BUTTON AND USE EMERGENCY PHONE, AUDIBLE AND VISUAL SIGNAL WILL ACTIVATE" should be posted above the switch in letters 25 mm high with a 5 mm stroke;

And at least one of the following:

  1. A vacuum-limit mechanism or vacuum-limit device for each pump attached to the hot tub; or
  2. All suction outlets are fitted with cover plates designed to reduce the risk of body entrapment; or
  3. Installation of at least two separately located suction outlets for each pump attached to the hot tub.

If you have further questions or require clarification please contact your local Public Health Inspector or an accredited hot tubs, spas and whirlpools association.


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Last Updated by Steve Warner on Dec 30, 2006