A recent report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that more than 75 percent of drownings and pool-related injuries from 2012 to 2016 involved children younger than five.
In light of this public health crisis, the CPSC and the Michael Phelps Foundation have jointly launched a new Pool Safely campaign. The Pool Safety campaign began seven years ago and since then, the campaign has acquired more than a thousand partners that assist in public outreach and education to help parents and families learn more about safety in and around pools and spas.
Organizations like the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, Walmart, the U.S. YMCA, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Red Cross, and the Boy Scouts of America all participate in the Pool Safety campaign. The goal is to reduce the number of fatal drownings and entrapments in swimming pools and spas.
CPSC Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle noted progress but said, “[W]e need even more kids taking swim lessons, more adults serving as Water Watchers, more fences installed, and more people trained in CPR. Today’s swimming lesson with Michael and his Foundation serves as a reminder of the importance of all children learning how to swim—no matter where they live or what their circumstance.” Michael Phelps, a retired competitive swimmer, is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals, 23 gold.
Drownings and Pool-related Injuries
Unintentional drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury resulting in death worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that about 360,000 people die of drowning worldwide. Drowning occurs more frequently in males and younger people, including children. The WHO stresses that most drownings are preventable.
Some people may survive drowning but can be left with permanent neurological damage because of oxygen deprivation.
The CPSC reports that 50 percent of all drownings and swimming pool injuries in children under 15 years of age happen at home. The majority of drownings in children under the age of 9 occur in public or community pools. These disturbing statistics underscore the need for pool owners and operators to have proper safety measures in place.
The Pool Safety initiative offers this checklist for pool owners.
- Never leave children unattended in a pool
- Designate a “water watcher” if a lifeguard is not on duty
- Install a safety barrier (at least four feet tall) around the perimeter of the pool
- Use self-closing gates that open outward from the pool
- Ensure pool water, equipment and surroundings are properly maintained and free of hazards
- For those with an above ground pool, ensure the ladder is removed and the pool covered when not in use.
Young children can wander from the house and fall or jump into an untended swimming pool.
Older children and adults are also at risk for drowning and injuries. Drownings or injuries can occur when someone dives into shallow water and hits their head on the bottom of the pool. Drinking increases drowning and injury risks by impairing reflexes and judgment. “Horseplay” at a pool party—pushing and shoving near a pool—can have tragic results. Before diving or jumping into a pool, the swimmer should be sure that no one is in the water in his or her path.
Many swimming pool users suffer entrapment drownings and injuries every year. A swimmer can become trapped at or against a pool or spa drain, because of pump suction. Long hair, body parts, bathing suits and jewelry can become trapped and the individual can die by drowning or suffer serious injuries.
Pool Owner Liability
Safety authorities say the leading contributing factors in drownings and pool injuries among young children are the lack of pool barriers and lack of supervision, particularly in residential pools. In most communities, when proper precautions are not taken, and death or injury occurs, the pool’s owners and operators may be held liable.
Failing to install a perimeter fence, leaving a pool gate unlocked, allowing small children to swim without supervision, or failing to prevent access to a swimming pool may be considered acts of negligence. New York State law requires that every swimming pool constructed or modified after 2006 must be equipped with a pool alarm that can detect when a child enters the water. Pool owners must also make sure that all suction outlets are covered to prevent entrapment.
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