Swimming pools bring much needed relief from hot Pennsylvania weather and can be wonderful places for family and friends to enjoy the dog days of summer. Most conscientious pool owners have spent time thinking about the dangers and liability a swimming pool can bring. According to the National Safety Council, there are over 7,000 drowning deaths in the United States each year, and over 80% of them occur in home swimming pools. Take action this summer to ensure your family is as safe as possible from the real risks of drowning involved with pool usage and ownership.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that drowning is the second leading injury-related cause of death in children under the age of 15. According to the Centers for Disease Control, children between the ages of 1 and 4 are most at risk, and most of these drownings occur in home swimming pools.
Frighteningly, these deaths and injuries occur very quickly and without warning. Many of the drowning deaths of small children, according to the NSC, occur when at least one parent is present and while the child was missing from sight for 5 minutes or less. The NSC reports that drownings can happen in the amount of time it takes to answer your cell phone.
In addition to these drowning deaths, every year 5,000 children are hospitalized for near-drowning injuries, and many of these injuries lead to lifelong disabilities. Severe injuries can include traumatic brain injury, evisceration, and disembowelment.
Risk Factors for Drowning and Pool Accidents
Risks associated with drowning are varied, and many of these risks can be mitigated. Obviously, one of the greatest risks is a small child falling into a swimming pool when unattended.
A four-sided isolation fence can prevent drowning by 83% compared to three-sided fencing. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the fence should be at least 4 feet tall and have no hand or foot holds to allow climbing over the fence. This type of fence completely separates the swimming pool from the rest of the property and cannot be easily entered without the caregiver’s awareness. This prevents the homeowner’s children from entering the pool as well as children who could wander in from neighboring homes. Another excellent safety feature is a self-closing gate — a feature that can help to prevent the user from unintentionally leaving the gate open. Gates to pools can also be alarmed so that pool owners are alerted when the gate has been opened.
Though most people are somewhat aware of drowning risks, many do not realize that pool drains can cause death or injury due to entrapment of limbs, clothing, or hair. In fact, in 2002 after a seven-year-old child died when the suction of a spa drain trapped her under water, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was passed in order to make pool and spa drain covers safer. Though this legislation forces public pools to comply with specific safety rules, private residences may not meet the safety regulations. Pools may be older and therefore not compliant, and pool owners may be unaware of the danger. Other risks include:
- Lack of swimming ability
- Lack of close supervision
- Alcohol use
- Slippery pool decks, ladders, and stairs
- Unsafe slides, toys, and inflatable devices
Tips for Staying Safe around the Pool
Though there are serious risks associated with drowning, there are also many things you can do to help avoid the likelihood of someone drowning in your pool:
- Install an isolation fence with basic safety features. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has published an excellent guide for pool owners and users.
- Have your child take part in swimming lessons from an early age, which can reduce his or her risk of drowning.
- Even if there is a lifeguard present, another adult should be designated to supervise children at all times.
- Small children should always be within arm’s reach.
- Research shows that alcohol is involved in over 70 percent of adolescent and adult drowning deaths; it is important to avoid excessive drinking around water and water-related activities.
- Always keep the area around the pool free of toys and other obstructions. Put all toys away after use, in order to prevent small children from reaching for a toy and accidentally falling in.
- Enforce a no-running rule with your children around the pool to keep everyone safer from falls and head injuries.
- Be certain that your pool or spa drain complies completely with federal codes and standards.
Personal Injury Lawyers for Drowning Victims
The attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum understand that when tragedy strikes, you need expert assistance right away. If someone in your family has been injured or killed in a drowning or pool-related incident, you need help and legal advice now. Donaghue & Labrum attorneys are experienced in cases related to personal injury and can offer support and guidance to get you confidently through the legal process. We will take care of the details and provide you with the counsel you need. And we will not rest until you are fully compensated for pain, injuries, and suffering. We serve the greater Philadelphia area with accessible offices in Media and West Chester. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.