A hot summer afternoon at the pool offers rest and relaxation perfect for the season — cool water, a relaxing chaise chair, and a cold glass of lemonade by your side. Even though it is almost September, we are still getting our share of hot and humid days here in New Jersey. However, the pleasure of a pool must be coupled with prudence in swimming pool safety due to the risks of drowning , near drowning and spinal cord injuries due to diving accidents. If you’ve enjoyed a pool all summer, there is a real danger that you will let your guard down now that it’s late in the season. I don’t want that to happen so I’m presenting these pool safety tips now, as a reminder.
While I can enjoy hanging out at the pool on a summer day as much as anyone, I am always well aware of the individuals and the families affected by tragic swimming pools injuries. Indeed, two of the most famous New Jersey Supreme Court decisions known to personal injury lawyers in New Jersey – McLaughlin v. Rova Farms, Inc., 56 N.J. 288 (1970) and Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of America, 65 N.J. 474 (1974) – arose out of a horrific diving accident.
Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Every day, about ten people die from unintentional
drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that each year nearly 300 children under the age of five drown in a pool or spa and another 5,100 children under the age of 15 go to hospital emergency rooms for near-drowning injuries. Children between the ages of 1 and 3 and African American children between the ages of 5 and 19 are most at risk of drowning. More than 200 young children drown in backyard swimming pools each year.
To help prevent these tragic deaths while at the pool this summer, people need to be aware of their surroundings. They also need to make sure there are proper safety precautions taken before setting foot inside a pool setting.
Here are nine tips to help keep everyone safe at the pool this season:
1. Maintain an effective fence and gate enclosure around any swimming pool to prevent young children from wandering in without adult supervision.
o The fence must be at least four feet high, with no openings larger than four inches.
o The gate must be self-closing and self-latching.
o The latch on the gate must require one to reach over the gate and lift up, so that small children cannot open it.
o All chairs, tables, large toys or other objects that would allow a child to climb up to reach the gate latch or enable the child to climb over the isolation fence should be removed or kept inside the fenced area.
o If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install and religiously use door alarms and install window guards on windows facing pools or spas.
o Install pool and gate alarms to alert you when children manage to get past the first line of defense. Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm.
2. Teach all children to swim by age four.
3. Make sure a responsible adult trained in CPR and first aid, or a lifeguard, or is present and attentive at all times when children are in the pool area.
o If you have a home pool, take Red Cross water safety, CPR and first aid courses.
o If your neighborhood operates a pool, push to hire a qualified lifeguard if possible.
o Issue the adult supervisor an item such as a whistle, bracelet, etc. to reinforce which adult is in charge of the safety of the children.
4. Remember that a person who is drowning will not look like the dramatic “drowning”you see on TV and movies.
o More often, drowning victims are not flailing away and waving their arms around because instinct actually drives them to push themselves upward by moving their arms lateral and downward.
5. Maintain constant, undistracted visual supervision of young children in and around the swimming pool.
o Never leave a young child unattended in or near water but stay in arm’s reach of very young kids. Do not trust a child’s life to another child or even an unreliable, distracted adult. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a cell phone call or respond to a text message.
o Remove small children from the swimming pool for any distraction such as a telephone call, use of restroom, etc.
o Make sure children who have not learned to swim wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.
Floaties, rafts and inflatable toys should never be substituted for adult supervision.
o Teach young children to ask permission before going near water and enforce that rule with meaningful discipline.
o If a child is missing, check the water first- every second counts!
6. Establish and enforce clear pool safety rules,such as
o No diving
o No swimming alone
o No running in pool area
o No riding toys or electronic devices near pool
o Stay away from drains
o Don’t just post the rules where easily ignored. Reinforce their importance and impose meaningful consequences for breaking the rules.
7. Make sure your pool and spa drains, drain covers and pool and spa covers comply with federal safety requirements.
o Older drains with uncontrolled suction posed a risk of drowning or disemboweling a child. Since 2007, federal law has to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed.
o Under the law, all public pools and spas must have ANSI/ASME A112.19.8 performance standard, or the successor standard ANSI/APSP-16 2011 compliant drain covers installed and a second anti-entrapment system installed, when there is a single main drain other than an unblockable drain.
o Maintain pool and spa covers in good working order.
o If you do not know what kind of drains, drain covers and pool covers you have, ask your pool service provider whether yours meet these standards.
8. Be prepared for emergencies.
o Make sure everyone in the home knows how to respond to water emergencies by having an emergency plan in place with your children
o Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit, within a reach at poolside, not inside the house.
o Make sure even very young children know how and when to call 911.
9. Remember pool hygiene as well as safety.
o Keep your pool clean and clear by maintaining proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. I represented a child in a near drowning in which an apartment pool was so murky that emergency personnel had trouble finding a black child on the white bottom of the pool.
o By keeping a pool clean and hygienic, you can see what is happening in the pool and minimize risks of earaches, rashes or diseases.
o Protect your skin. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and wear a carefully chosen sunscreen.
o Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine
May you and your children reach the end of the summer swimming pool season as you began it, safe and healthy, though more tan and fit.
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