Remember Swimming Pool Safety for Summer Fun
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on May 22nd, 2012
As summer weather and the glorious summer holidays approach, it’s a great time to review swimming pool safety at home, in public pools or on vacations so that you and your family stay safe.
The Memorial Day holiday weekend is fast approaching and will kick-off the unofficial start of the summer season, making it a great time to review swimming pool safety at home, in public pools and on vacations so that you and your family stay safe.
If your home has a swimming pool, it’s also important for you to know basic pool safety so that you can also protect your legal rights and liability in connection with swimming injuries.
No matter where the pool is located, at home, a public pool or a pool that operates through a business, hotel or any other establishment, one of the most critical rules is that you must always watch children at all times to be sure they are safe, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and its Pool Safely safety campaign.
An average of 385 children under 15 years of age died annually in the U.S. due to pool or spa drownings from 2005 through 2007, according to the CPSC.
As a homeowner, you must be vigilant, pro-active and firm about setting safety rules and enforcing them so that guests and family members aren’t accidentally injured or worse.
An important tradition at your pool should always be that you and your guests know the safety rules that must be followed. The group, Safe Kids USA, has some excellent guidelines for your guests and your family to follow:
*Actively supervise your children around water at all times, and have a phone nearby to call for help in an emergency.
*Be sure that your pool has four-sided fencing at least four-feet-tall all the way around it. as well as a self-closing, self-latching gate. This protects a child from being able to access your pool and enter it when no one is around. It also protects you from legal action by shutting your pool off to non-authorized users. Be sure to also cover and lock your hot tub when it’s not being used to protect others and to protect yourself legally.
*Safe Kids USA also recommends installing a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
*Teach your children and any young visitors that they should never, ever go near the water if an adult is not nearby and directly watching them.
*Enroll your child in swimming lessons after age 4, the group also recommends. Be sure that they know how to tread water, float and stay by the pool wall.
*Know CPR and know how to respond properly and quickly to any type of water emergency in your pool, spa or hot tub on your property.
*Don’t allow the use of bottles or glass dishware near the pool to prevent injuries.
*Don’t allow anyone to run or play near the edge of the pool. Accidents can and do happen.
*Don’t allow consumption of alcohol or drugs around the pool, especially for any adults who are there in a supervisory role with children.
*Use non-slip materials on the surfaces around the pool to prevent accidental falls into the pool.
*Use a properly-sized pool cover when the pool is unoccupied as another layer of protection from accidental drownings.
*Be sure that anyone who gets into the pool knows how to swim and understands you safety rules.
*Check local pool safety requirements in your town and be sure that you adhere to them to limit your legal liability.
*Equip your pool with proper handrails and ladders at each end for safe entry and exit from the pool.
*If you have a diving board, be sure that the pool is sufficiently deep to protect from serious diving injuries.
*Mark water depths on the sides of the pool so visitors understand how deep it is and can stay within their comfort levels.
*Constantly check for damaged fasteners, protruding bolts and other safety issues that could cause injuries to protect your legal interests.
*Have needed safety equipment on hand by the pool, including life preservers, rescue ropes and a first aid kit, and be sure you are trained in using them all.
Not all accidents and incidents happen at home, however. If you are visiting a pool that is maintained by another individual or a business, you need to understand your legal rights if you are injured due to improper maintenance, facilities or other problems.
In addition, portable above-ground pools offer their own hazards, according to the CPSC. “Portable pools are affordable, transportable, but can be just as dangerous as any other pool,” the agency reported in a blog post. “CPSC has received an average of 35 reports of deaths of children under the age of 5 in portable pools each year. These pools account for 11 percent of all pool drownings for children that age. You can prevent these deaths.”
“If a portable pool, either large or small, is in your plans or already in your yard, put Pool Safely’s simple steps into play,” the agency said. “Whether the pool is a small blow-up pool or a thousands-of-gallons type with rigid sides, portable pools are often left full of water and unsupervised. Just like in-ground pools, portables need barriers and fencing that keep unsupervised children out. Empty and store small portable pools when you are not using them. Cover larger ones.”
Meanwhile, there are other dangers in swimming pools, including entrapments – where a person is trapped by the powerful suction of an underwater pool drain that prevents them from surfacing and getting air.
According to the CPSC, from 1999 to 2009, there were 94 reports of pool, spa or whirlpool entrapment incidents that left 12 people dead and injured another 79. About 75% of those victims were under 15 years of age and 50% of the cases involved swimming pools. The victims died or were injured due to broken or missing outlet covers on the drains, which allowed them to be held against the drain underwater due to the pressure of the draining water from which they could not escape.
Such tragedies led in 2007 to the passage of the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act), named for a little girl who died in such an accident in 2002 in a hot tub. Virginia Graeme Baker was the granddaughter of former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III. The law, which went into effect in December of 2008, mandated new requirements for pool and spa safety and led to the national promotion of pool safety efforts.
It’s also a great idea to check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Web site each season to learn if any of your pool toys or accessories have been recalled due to safety issues.
This month, the CPSC issued a recall for about 21,000 inflatable Banzai brand in-ground pool slides that were sold in Wal-Mart and Toys R Us stores, according to a press release from the agency. At least one person died due to the slides, the agency reported, when a 29-year-old Colorado woman fractured her neck and hit her head as she went down a slide that had been placed over the concrete edge of a pool. The bottom of the slide had partially deflated, which allowed the woman’s head to hit her head in the pool, the report said. “The slide is also unstable and can topple over in both still and windy conditions and carries inadequate warnings and instructions,” according to the press release.
At least two other adults were also injured on the slides.
“The recalled slides, which were manufactured in China by Manley Toys, Ltd, were sold at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us nationwide from January 2005 through June 2009 for about $250,” the release said. “The recalled slides have the barcode number 2675315734 and model number 15734. Both the barcode and model number appear on the original packaging but are not on the actual slide.”
The products should no longer be used and should be returned to the nearest Wal-Mart or Toys R Us store for a full refund, according to the agency. Call Wal-Mart for more information on the recall at (800) 925-6278 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at www.walmartstores.com. For additional information from Toys R Us, call (800) 869-7787 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday and between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, or visit the firm’s website at www.toysrus.com.
The summer swimming season is supposed to be a time of fun and joy as family and friends gather for relaxing times together. Making sure that pool safety rules are always followed will help prevent injuries and accidents and minimize pool dangers.
Of course, if you or someone in your family is injured in a swimming pool accident or incident, the skilled and compassionate personal injury attorneys here at MyPhillyLawyer are available to help you and discuss your case and legal options.
From all of us at MyPhillyLawyer, we wish you and your family a safe and enjoyable summer.