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Pool and Spa Safety: Drowning Is Not the Only Danger

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 3-Oct-2007

Pool and spa safety is a year-round concern that cannot take a back seat after Labor Day.  Regan Zambri & Long previously highlighted the importance of pool safety in an earlier posting on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog.

Recently, an Anne Arundel County, Maryland jury awarded the parents of a five-year-old boy a verdict in excess of $4 million dollars in damages related to their son’s drowning in 2006 wherein he was found floating on the surface of Crofton Country Club’s outdoor pool, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.

Pool injuries can occur in a variety of ways. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that approximately 350 children under age five suffer fatalities every year in swimming pool drownings and that an additional 2,600 are treated in emergency rooms following submersion incidents which can cause brain damage.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission encourages the following safety measures: use of a power safety cover, accessible rescue equipment, CPR training, use of pool alarms, careful diving practices, use of safety fences, and constant parent and guardian supervision of children near pools.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the risk of "recreational water illnesses" which can be spread by the germs in public swimming pools and spas.  The Centers for Disease Control provides the "PLEAs" and "HOT" pointers for healthy use of pools and spas:

"’PLEAs’ for All Swimmers

  • Please don’t swim when you have diarrhea. This is especially important for kids in diapers.  You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Please don’t swallow the water. In fact, avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Please practice good hygiene. Take a shower before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water."

"’PLEAs’ for Parents of Young Kids

  • Please take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear "I have to go" may mean that it’s too late.
  • Please change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside.  Germs can spread to surfaces and objects in and around the pool and spread illness.
  • Please wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming.  Everyone has invisible amounts of fecal matter on their bottoms that ends up in the pool."

"’HOT’ Tips for Safety in Spas

  • Heed… rules for safe and healthy use.
    • Observe limits, if posted, on the maximum allowable number of bathers.
    • Exclude children less than 5 years of age from using spas.
    • If pregnant, consult a healthcare provider before using spas, particularly if you’re in the first three months.
  • Observe… and listen to the spa and its surroundings. What should you notice?
    • No odor; a well-chlorinated spa has little odor.  A strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
    • Smooth spa sides; tiles should not be sticky or slippery.
    • Spa equipment is working; pumps and filtration systems make noise and you should hear them running.
    • Spa temperature should not exceed 104 [degrees] F (40 [degrees] C).
    • Check spa water; test for adequate chlorine or bromine (2-5 parts per million and pH (7.2-7.8) levels.  Pool and spa chlorine or bromine test strips are available at local home improvement stores, discount retailers, and pool supply stores. If you want to practice using them at home, review the Pool and Spa Test Strips Home Test Instructions.
  • Talk… to spa owners/staff and other spa users.
    • What was the health inspector’s grade for the spa after its last inspection?
    • Are disinfectant and pH levels checked at least twice per day?
    • Are these levels checked during times when the pool is most heavily used?
    • Are trained operation staff available during the weekends when the spa is most heavily used?
    • What specialized training did the staff take to prepare for working at or operating a spa?
    • Learn about [Recreational Water Illnesses] and educate other users and your spa operator.
    • Urge your spa management to spread the word about RWIs to spa staff and pool users."

If you or a family member has suffered an injury from a defective or unsafe pool or spa, please contact Regan Zambri & Long at 202-759-6699 or contact us online.

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