Swimming Pool Safety Falls on Members to Educate

According to the CDC, about ten people die from unintentional drowning every single day. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. As hard as it may be to believe, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States.

For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries. These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory or learning problems. The truth is that drowning kills more children ages 1-4 than anything else except for birth defects.

For districts that have public pools, reservoirs, or own facilities where people engage in water activities such as kayaking, fishing, or boating, making sure your employees and guests are well-informed should be your top priority.

To start, make sure staff are trained and up-to-date in water safety, first-aid procedures, and regulatory standards. Beyond that, consider disseminating the same information to visitors. The practices and plans your district have in place might be the difference between a fun summer’s day on the water and a preventable death.

What to Watch For

According to a 2004 study by a national safety group, 90% of children who drowned did so while under the care of an adult or teenager. The study goes on to suggest that the supervisor had a momentary lapse of attention. Often times, those supervising don’t always know what to look for because drowning doesn’t always look like drowning.

When people are drowning and in need of help, signs of gasping or hyperventilating are the first indicators something is wrong. Because they are struggling to take a breath, calling out or waving for help is not an option. Instinctively, a drowning person extends their arms to the sides and presses down to lift their mouth out of the water. Their arms remain occupied with trying to keep them up, so they can’t move towards a rescuer or reach out for rescue equipment.

In reality, someone who is drowning may only struggle for 20 to 60 seconds before going under, and at a crowded, noisy pool, you may never notice anything has happened.

Cases and Prevention Tips

In May 2018, a 15-year-old student died while his coach was distracted by his cell phone. Overseeing a swimming lesson as part of a physical education class, the coach failed to recognize that there had been an incident and dismissed the class to the next period. The child struggled for four minutes before succumbing to exhaustion.

In June of 2015, a Texas mother sat by her apartment pool on her cell phone while three of her five children drowned. Reports indicated that the kids were unable to swim, although these claims have been disputed by the mother’s husband.

While both of these incidents are tragic, they remain preventable. In order to avoid these situations, employ “touch supervision,” a tactic best used for the youngest children which requires that a supervisor always remain close enough to reach those swimming.

Since drowning occurs so quickly, adults should never engage in distracting activities. Beyond cell phone use, this extends to reading or playing cards and games, even if lifeguards are present.

Knowing the basics of swimming such as floating and moving through water is critical when entering public swimming areas. CPR remains an invaluable skill for any individual, regardless of age.

Life Jackets are also a must for those that are not comfortable with their ability or too young to swim; however, do not rely on life jackets alone. Additionally, air filled inflatable or foam toys do not constitute safety devices and cannot be substituted for life jackets.

For some pools, danger even exists outside of the water. Understanding the risks of diving boards can also go a long way when staying safe this summer. There’s a right way and a wrong way to jump off of a diving board: bounce once and jump straight ahead; bouncing twice can lead to a slip, fall, or landing you didn’t expect.

A study done by Pediatrics found that about 111,000 diving related injuries occurred in people under the age of 19 from 1990 to 2006. The main cause of injury in most of these cases was due to collision with the diving board or platform.

Laws

Colorado has many public pool regulations under its Code of Regulations. These regulations include a maximum wading pool depth of 18 inches, depth markers, a minimum competitive water depth of four feet, deck areas, overflow gutters, inlets, steps and ladders, suction cleaner, showers, and toilets.

Owners and operators of public and semi-public pools must also comply in an effort to maintain the safety of those using the facilities. Scenarios which may give rise to actionable claims of this nature can include:

  • Failure to erect warning signs where necessary
  • Lack of appropriate lifeguard personnel
  • Failure to install necessary fencing
  • Faulty lighting
  • Malfunctioning electrical systems in the pool itself
  • Failure to monitor for safe chemical levels

Also note that any public swimming pool must have a fence of at least 60 inches high, self-closing doors, and latching gates.

For a full list of rules, codes, and regulations, visit the state website to make sure your facilities are abiding by state law.

General Pool Health and Safety

Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) are illnesses caused by germs and chemicals found in the water in which we swim. They spread by swallowing, breathing in mists or aerosols, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, play areas, lakes, and rivers.

Due to the high risk of contamination, maintaining your facilities in order to prevent the spread of RWIs should be high on your list of priorities. Maintenance should include making sure the drain at the bottom of the deep end is visible, checking that all drain covers appear secured, and using pool test strips to make sure the water’s pH, free chlorine, or bromine concentration is correct. And if you don’t have a lifeguard on duty, remember to ensure all safety equipment is available and up-to-date and all chemicals are put away.

As we mentioned, having educated and informed guests can also make your jobs easier. Consider investing in adequate signage so your guests understand the following, incredibly important information:

  • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
  • Stay out if you have an open wound that is not covered with a waterproof bandage
  • Shower before you get in the water. Rinsing off in the shower for just 1 minute removes most of the dirt or anything else on your body.
  • Once in the pool, don’t poop or pee in the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Check and change diapers in a bathroom or changing area—not near the pool.

Take the Extra Stroke

This season make sure you have your staff, even beyond lifeguards, trained on how to identify drowning victims and what to do in case of an emergency.

Stay current on all pool and water-related maintenance, safety equipment, and signage. Lastly, inform your visitors on how to be safe and healthy this summer in and around the water.

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