Swim Safety Tips: Pool Accident Prevention & Liability
by Andrew L. Shapiro
School’s out, temperatures are more or less climbing, and many are headed to the pool for some summer fun or just to seek relief from the heat.
But did you know that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports about 300 drowning deaths for children under five years old, annually? In addition, approximately 2,000 other small children need treatment in hospital emergency rooms because of near-drownings.
That doesn’t mean older children and adults are accident proof at the pool. And it doesn’t mean pool-goers are only susceptible to drowning dangers.
Accidents at pools can occur because of electrical shocks from pool equipment, underwater lights, nearby audio or television equipment, and extension cords. Speaking of extension cords, watch out for tripping hazards. Additional slip-and-fall injuries may be caused by wet decks and tiles – more serious falls can result in concussions and potential drowning.
Pool chemicals can cause problems too – 25 children were injured recently, because a water park employee shut down a pump but did not turn off the chlorine system, causing a massive dump of chemicals into a wave pool.
Pool Accident Liability
When someone is hurt at a pool, whether public or private, the pool owner may be held liable because of premises liability, negligence, or products liability. The owner or operator must take reasonable precautions to prevent drownings and other injuries.
These precautions include installing complete fencing, posting warning signs, providing proper supervision and the proper maintenance of the pool, equipment and surrounding areas to keep visitors safe.
Many California cities have special ordinances requiring specific standards be met by pool owners. In Los Angeles, for example, there are city requirements to be met for zoning, building and glazing pools. Fencing must resist certain wind and seismic loads; drains more than 12 inches wide must be covered by approved anti-entrapment grates.
If the above requirements are not met by a pool owner and a drowning or other accident occurs, the owner may be liable for negligence per se, or negligence involving a violation of specific laws.
Pool Safety Tips
There are a number of steps both pool owners and pool users can take to avoid accidents and injuries. The basic ones include alert supervision, minimizing alcohol use, and learning CPR. But here are some more specific ones:
1. Watch, WATCH, WATCH! Children can go underwater very quickly, and can drown in less time than it takes to answer a phone call. Seventy-seven percent of drowned children were reported out of sight for less than five minutes, according to the CPSC.
Additionally, children should be supervised by swimmers. A mother in Texas recently lost three children because she couldn’t save them from drowning at an apartment complex pool.
2. Ensure the number of people supervising is proportionate to the number of people swimming. A four year old in San Diego died after a pool party at a yacht club, where only one life guard was on duty for a kindergarten class.
3. Watch for Dry Drowning symptoms: Hours after a near-drowning incident, the victim may later succumb to “dry drowning” or “secondary drowning”. What’s happening in these situations isn’t an actual drowning, but a form of pneumonia – the inhaled pool water irritates the lungs, which then produce fluid.
Nearly drowned victims, or parents of these victims should pay close attention to someone having difficulty breathing, coughing or vomiting. The symptoms may appear shortly after the near-drowning incident, as in the case of a 10 year old boy who died of dry drowning recently; or up to 48 hours afterwards, according to some medical experts.
4. Keep children away from pool drains, which can create strong suction forces.
5. Ensure all pool equipment is properly maintained, and that all surrounding areas are free of obstacles that may cause pool users to slip, causing injuries to the back or limbs, head concussions and subsequent drownings.
Andrew L. Shapiro is the Chair of our Personal Injury Practice Group. Contact him by phone: (818) 907-3230, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.