Swimming Pools: Fun in the Sun, But…
At times, unfortunately, summer fun can turn dangerous or even deadly. The statistics are clear: Unintentional drowning is the number two cause of death in children age 14 and younger. About 60 percent of childhood drowning deaths happen in pools, with inadequate supervision a common cause of drownings.
But it’s not just kids. Swimming pool injuries and drownings can strike victims of all ages, causing loss of life and lifelong injury. Almost 80 percent of drowning victims are adults.
And drowning isn’t the only hazard at a pool. Slips and falls on hard concrete surfaces can cause spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions, and related problems.
The Hazards of “Lacks”
Lack of supervision, or inadequate supervision from lifeguards on duty, is one of the most common reasons for accidental drowning. Other “lacks” that contribute to drownings and near-drowning trauma include:
- Lack of swimming ability
- Lack of safety barriers to prevent unauthorized access
- Lack of warnings about risks
- Lack of depth markings on the pool.
Hijinks Can Mean High Danger
No one means for it to happen—kids, and even adults, because they are excited and happy, run around the pool and engage in various kinds of horseplay. Then, someone falls, and hits their head, neck, or back. Or, perhaps a dive goes horribly wrong.
Lots of opportunities for slipping and falling abound, and not just from the pool water on walking areas. Suntan lotion and certain foods and drinks can create slick areas. If surfaces have not been constructed in ways that prevent falls, or are worn smooth from age, a person can slip.
Diving boards and slides that aren’t well-constructed or maintained can also be a source of dangerous falls and resultant injuries. Even what seems like a small slip can sometimes result in spinal cord or traumatic brain injury.
Federal and Maryland Swimming Pool Laws
The main federal pool law, The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, mostly concerns drains of pools and spas, to prevent accidental drownings caused by the suction of hot tub and pool drains. But there are still occasional problems with drains, as evidenced by a 2011 recall of pool and spa drain covers. Stay well away from drains.
In Maryland, public and semi-public pools are required to use fencing (six feet tall for public, five feet for semi-public) and various kinds of signage to restrict access and warn of dangers, including warnings about shallow water that restricts diving. Montgomery County has some special laws of its own that go beyond the state law, including fencing for private pools.
Public pools are required to have lifeguards on duty in Maryland, along with certain first aid and emergency equipment on hand. Be aware that there are exceptions to the law when it comes to semi-public pools (such as at hotels) and the lifeguard requirement.
Private pools in Maryland have no such requirements for signage and fencing (with the exception of Montgomery County, as noted above), but as a responsible pool owner, you should do what you can to prevent unsupervised access by others, notably children. Children often are drawn to water and cannot accurately estimate depth, water risk, or their own skills. For this reason, it’s especially important that children are supervised at all times while in or around the water.
Making Your Pool a Safe Place
To keep your pool safe, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that a pool barrier be at least 48 inches high. This should prevent young children from climbing over it. With fencing, make sure gaps between posts are no more than 1 ¾ inches. Additionally, there should be no more than a four-inch gap at the bottom of a fence to ensure children don’t slide under it. If you have a door providing immediate access to a pool, verify that it is equipped with an alarm that will sound within 7 seconds of the door’s opening.
And Still More That You Can Do
The following suggestions will help ensure a safe time at the pool:
- Be wary of swimming at pools with no lifeguard, even if you are a good swimmer, and especially if you have children with you.
- Don’t allow your children to run, push, or shove.
- Tell children not to jump or dive into shallow ends of pools.
- Obey all posted pool signage.
- Wear non-slip shoes when not in the water.
Also, if you or a loved one has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision when around the water. And, whatever you do, limit or eliminate alcohol usage.
We Want to Help: Contact a Swimming Pool Accident Lawyer
Steven Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the negligent actions of others.
If your child or other loved one has been involved in a swimming pool accident or drowning in which you suspect swimming site negligence, Baltimore personal injury attorney Steven Heisler can help you and your family obtain the justice you need. Strict state statutes of limitation mean that your time to file may be limited, so schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by contacting the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler at (410) 625-4878 today. Steven H. Heisler, The Injury Lawyer—committed to justice, and committed to you.