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Using common sense, caution and safe practices can keep chemical applicators and pool users safe from harm. Safety around a swimming pool is an issue addressed by pool & spa professionals, their trade associations, and your local government in cooperation with pool safety advocacy groups.

Pools and spas are not considered dangerous, yet the lack of proper precaution or available safety products can create hazardous conditions or liability concerns for the pool owner. Drowning is Silent, and can occur in a split second to people of all ages and swimming ability. Spinal injuries occur from improper diving, and slip and fall cases and the use of hazardous chemicals can cause a visit to the emergency room.

The Pool Safety information below is divided into 2 categories: 1 - Drowning & Accident Prevention and 2 – Pool Chemical Use and Storage Safety.

Drowning & Accident Prevention

Statistics from the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) show that drowning and swimming accidents are best prevented by adult supervision, public awareness programs including water safety training for young children, and not drinking alcohol while swimming, diving or soaking. Statistically, most accidents involving drowning or severe injury occur to children under 5 years of age who are unsupervised, cannot swim well, and fall into a pool or pool cover with water on top. Toddlers at the age of 2 or 3 are most likely to wander off from parental supervision. Barriers such as fences or back doors are often left unlocked. Drowning is NOT accompanied by loud noise or splashing sounds. DROWNING IS SILENT! To prevent child-drowning, there is NO substitute for parental supervision.

The second largest number of accidental injuries occurs to teenagers, primarily males. Often the victim has been drinking alcohol and dives into a pool in an area too shallow for diving, or from a location not intended for diving (like the roof of the house). Many of those who "drink and dive" end up in a wheelchair, with permanent spinal cord damage. Alcohol and spas are also a potentially lethal combination; the hot water and the alcohol combine to cause individuals to fall asleep and drown in only three feet of water. Other hazards exist, like standing water on top of solid pool covers. Toddlers and animals can drown in as little as two inches of water on top of a solid pool cover. Cover pumps are available and must be used, or switch to a mesh type safety cover. Solar blankets or solid covers must be completely removed before entering the water. Entrapment by the suction of a single main drain on long hair or small arms and legs is another cause of drowning in pools and spas. New standards require dual main drains or a safety switch to prevent main drain entrapment. Missing or loose main drain covers are also blamed for many entrapment drownings.

In some areas of the nation's sunbelt, drowning has been the leading cause of accidental death in the home of children under 5 years old. The information below can help parents and caregivers provide young children with the protection they deserve. Each year, nationwide, more than 300 children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools, usually a pool owned by their family. In addition, more than 2,000 children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injures.

Medical costs for submersion victims during the initial hospitalization alone can be quite high. Costs can range from an estimated $2,000 for a victim who recovers fully to $80,000 for a victim with severe brain damage. Some severely brain damaged victims have initial hospital stays in excess of 120 days and expenses in excess of $150,000.

Most communities have enacted safety regulations governing residential swimming pools -- in-ground and above-ground. It's up to parents to comply with these regulations. Apart from pool safety laws, parents who own pools should take their own precautions to reduce the chances of their children accessing the family pool or spa without adult supervision.

Pool Drowning Facts & Figures

The following are just a few facts uncovered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in a comprehensive study of drowning and submersion incidents involving children under 5 years old in Arizona, California, and Florida.

  • Seventy-five percent of the submersion victims studied by CPSC were between 1 and 3 years old; 65 percent of this group were boys. Toddlers, in particular, often do something unexpected because their capabilities change daily.
  • At the time of the incidents, most victims were being supervised by one or both parents. Forty-six percent of the victims were last seen in the house; 23 percent were last seen in the yard or on the porch or patio; and 31 percent were in or around the pool before the accident. In all, 70 percent of the children were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water.
  • Submersion incidents involving children usually happen in familiar surroundings. Sixty-five percent of the incidents happened in a pool owned by the child's family and 33 percent of the incidents occurred in a pool owned by friends or relatives.
  • Pool submersions involving children happen quickly. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a phone, or transfer a load of laundry. Seventy-seven percent of the victims had been missing from sight for 5 minutes or less.
  • Survival depends on rescuing the child quickly and restarting the breathing process, even while the child is still in the water. Seconds count in preventing death or brain damage.
  • Child drowning is a silent death. There's no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.

More Drowning Prevention Tips

  1. There is NO substitute for adequate supervision. The "buddy system" of two children, is no substitute. Even people that can swim very well can drown when they bump their head, become entrapped, or have medical emergencies like seizures or cardiac arrest.
  2. Shallow Water Blackout (SWB), caused by hyperventilating and holding breath under water, is now recognized as a distinct danger to swimmers and divers. Instruct pool users to not play “breath holding” games, or attempt to swim the length of the pool without breathing, and to never hyperventilate before going under water.
  3. Pools and spas are attractive to children; what the courts call an "attractive nuisance". There must be a permanent barrier to entry. Local ordinances will specify a 3-sided or a 4-sided, non-climbable fence with self-closing, self-latching mechanisms on the gate. The gate should be locked when the pool is not in use. Do not place chairs or tables near a fence which would allow a child to climb over. Portable spas should have a hard top that locks on, preventing its use.
  4. In addition to a barrier around the pool, APSP promotes an idea called Layers of Protection, and has produced a pamphlet under the same name. This is the combination of many safety features working together to form several concentric "layers" of safety protection around a swimming pool or spa. A simple fence just won't do to protect the pool when it is not under supervision. Door exit alarms, infrared detectors or security cameras. Pool alarms, child alarms, or pool safety covers will all help to prevent accidents.
  5. Ensure that the pool is in clear view from the house, and not obstructed by plants, canopies, solid fences, or darkness. This is not so that you can watch your swimmers from the house; rather to ensure that the pool is not in use when it is not supposed to be.
  6. Place a phone nearby the pool with emergency numbers (911, fire department, poison control center, etc.) listed. Signs about the pool, with “pool rules” are a good idea, but remember to always instruct new users of your pool to what is allowed and what is not. Having a pool can make you popular with neighborhood friends of your children. If rules are not followed, do not allow these children to use the pool.
  7. Having rescue equipment on hand can help prevent a drowning person from drowning someone else. Ring buoys & reaching poles with life hooks should be at the ready. First aid kits should be nearby also.
  8. If you use a pool or spa cover, follow all instructions for their safe installation, use and maintenance. Always remove a cover completely before using the pool, and do not let standing water remain on top; remove it with a cover pump.
  9. Do not allow children to play near a pool. Games and bike riding can result in someone falling in, perhaps bumping their head on the way.
  10. Learn CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation).
  11. Have your children take swimming lessons at an early age. Experts now suggest that swim lessons can begin as early as 1 year of age, continuing every season for at least 5 years.

Use of Diving Boards

  1. If the diving board bothers you, have it removed. If it is too large for the length and depth of the pool, as is found on many older pools; have it removed.
  2. Inspect the board, the stand, and the hardware for signs of age, cracking, rust, etc.
  3. Do Not allow any drinking and diving. Place a chair on top of the board, with a "No Diving" sign during pool parties.
  4. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on safe diving practices. Instruct all users of your diving board on proper technique.
  5. Most serious accidents from diving boards occur to men aged 18-45, who dive too far and too deep, striking their chin and chest on the sloping pool floor.

Chemical Use and Storage Safety

Chemical Safety practices are important to prevent accidents during the transportation, use, and storage of pool chemicals. Every year, thousands (yes, thousands) of pool owners or caretakers are taken to the emergency room with skin, eye and lung trauma from pool chemical accidents or misuse.

Transporting Pool Chemicals Safely

  1. Keep your vehicle clean and organized.
  2. Separate incompatible chemicals, distribute between front seat, back seat and/or trunk.
  3. Don't purchase or carry damaged containers.
  4. Anchor your load securely, so that it won't move around.
  5. Ask your pool supply dealer for MSDS sheets, for your information and HAZMAT personnel in case of an accident.

Storing Pool Chemicals Safely

Store chemicals in a cool, dry and well ventilated area with a locked entry. Do not set outside in the sun and rain.

  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Keep pool and spa chemicals separate from each other, and from other home chemicals. Violent reactions such as explosion, fire, or noxious gas production can occur when pool chemicals contact each other. Never, ever mix any chemicals together.
  • Do not stack chemical containers on top of one another.
  • Do not store chemicals on shelves where they may fall during storms or earthquakes.
  • Replace lids and caps firmly and immediately after opening.
  • Store liquid chemicals in a plastic crate, on the bottom shelf.
  • Use old chemicals up, and rotate stock with FIFO (first in, first out).
  • Keep chemicals and scoops clean. Dust or leaf particles can cause violent reactions.
  • Post MSDS sheets and emergency information and phone numbers nearby.

Using Pool Chemicals Safely

Follow label directions carefully. Read the instructions! If the label is faded or torn, don't guess what it is. Return it to your dealer.

  • Add chemicals to pool water, not the other way around. Chemicals should be added directly to the pool, or through a feeder especially designed for that type of chemical. Chemicals added directly to the skimmer could allow strong concentrations to harm pool equipment or swimmers. If the instructions suggest diluting with water first, use a clean, oversized bucket with water in it, then add chemicals to the water in the bucket.
  • Wear safety gear when handling chemicals. This may include a breathing respirator to prevent inhalation of fumes, face shield, gloves and apron.
  • Do Not Mix chemicals...EVER! Open and use only one chemical at a time. Prevent accidental mixing by storing safely. Pool chemicals can mix with each other by using containers or scoops which were previously used for other chemicals. Always use a clean bucket and scoop, designated only for that chemical.
  • Dispose of wastes and spills safely and properly. Immediately clean up any chemical spills. If a violent reaction has occurred, contact the fire department immediately and they will instruct you on steps to take until their arrival, if any. If the spilled chemical is a solid, carefully sweep it up using a clean broom and shovel, and place it in a clean, dry, plastic container. Avoid breathing the dust. If possible, dilute the chemical in a bucket of water and add it to the pool or spa. Then test and balance the water. If this is not possible, contact the fire department for instructions on disposal. Do not place floor sweepings of chemicals back into the original container. Any foreign substance such as dust, dirt, and water can cause a reaction inside the container. Do not use a vacuum cleaner or wet/dry vacuum to clean up spilled substances. If the spilled substance is a liquid, it should be soaked up with clean, absorbent materials and placed inside a clean plastic or plastic lined container. Flush the area with large amounts of water.
  • Never smoke around any chemicals. Fire or explosion could result.
  • Do not breathe chemical fumes or dust. Wash skin if contact occurs. If chemicals splash in eyes, flush eyes for 15 minutes, and see a physician immediately.
  • Use ONLY a water filled fire extinguisher on a chlorine chemical fire. Never use the dry chemical type of extinguisher.
  • Keep posted emergency numbers for the fire department, poison control center, and MSDS sheets of all chemicals on hand.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Every pool chemical by law is required to have its own MSDS sheet. The pool chemical label has instructions for use, restricted uses, and First Aid information, but the MSDS sheet goes beyond what can easily fit on a bucket or bottle label.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) show exact chemical formulations and concentrations, along with First Aid and spill clean-up procedures. They also give exact instructions for use and the potential dangers and hazards of using the chemical.

If the Fire Department is called, they will ask for the MSDS sheets. Pool stores (and any seller of pool chemicals) are required to have these on hand, for an annual inspection by the Fire Marshall. Your dealer may have copies available for their customers use, however, if your dealer does not have them available, they can be printed from the chemical manufacturer’s website, and stored in a binder or folder for quick access by you or emergency personnel.

Related Product Pages:

Door & Gate Alarms
Pool Alarms
Pool Fences & Gate Latches
Pool Safety Signs
Pool Safety Covers
Water Rescue Equipment

Related Blog Posts:

Family Swimming Pool Safety Summit
Guide to Swimming Pool Safety
Lifeguard Skills for Pool Owners
Pool Fence Buyer's Guide
Pool Party Safety
Swimming Pool Alarms Buyer's Guide
Swimming Pool Safety Scan
The Problem with Water Wings or Swimmies

Related Pool Safety Resources:

APSP
CPSC
LIVE & LEARN
POOL SAFELY
SAFE KID