Pool Safety

Anthony Perry's Inspections recommends that you have your pool checked and serviced every year for safety and proper operation. Pool sales companies are the most qualified to do the inspection. Swimming pools should always be happy places. Unfortunately, each year thousands of American families confront swimming pool tragedies, drowning's and near-drowning's of young children. These tragedies are preventable. These are guidelines for pool barriers that can help prevent most submersion incidents involving young children. This designed for use by owners, purchasers, and builders of residential pools, spas, and hot tubs. These guidelines are not intended as the sole method to minimize pool drowning of young children, just helpful safety tips for safer pools.

Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to submersion in residential swimming pools. CPSC has estimated that each year about 300 children under 5 years old drown in swimming pools. Hospital emergency room treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 years of age who were submerged in residential pools. CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, both fatal drowning's and near-fatal submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida, states in which home swimming pools are very popular and in use during much of the year.

The speed with which swimming pool drowning's and submersions can occur is a special concern: by the time a child’s absence is noted, the child may have drowned. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to move quickly and unpredictably make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children.

Swimming pool drowning's of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will occur to alert a parent or caregiver that a child is in trouble. The best way to reduce child drowning's in residential pools was for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that would prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there are no substitutes for diligent supervision.

Why the Swimming Pool Guidelines Were Developed

Young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low or if the barrier has handholds or footholds for a child to use when climbing. The guidelines recommend that the top of a pool barrier be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Eliminating handholds and footholds and minimizing the size of openings in a barrier’s construction.

For a solid barrier no indentations or protrusions should be present, other than normal construction tolerances and masonry joints. For a barrier (fence) made up of horizontal and vertical members if the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be on the swimming pool side of the fence. The spacing of the vertical members should not exceed 1-3/4 inches. This size is based on the foot width of a young child and is intended to reduce the potential for a child to gain a foothold. If there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.

The definition of pool includes spas and hot tubs. The swimming pool barrier guidelines therefore apply to these structures as well as to conventional swimming pools.

How to Prevent a Child from Getting OVER a Pool Barrier

A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting OVER, UNDER, or THROUGH and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present.

The Swimming Pool Barrier Guidelines

If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool. The spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. This size is based on the head breadth and chest depth of a young child and is intended to prevent a child from passing through an opening. Again, if there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.

For a chain link fence the mesh size should not exceed 1-1/4 inches square unless slats, fastened at the top or bottom of the fence, are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches.

For a fence made up of diagonal members (latticework) the maximum opening in the lattice should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.

Aboveground pools should have barriers.

The pool structure itself serves as a barrier or a barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure. Then, there are two possible ways to prevent young children from climbing up into an aboveground pool. The steps or ladder can be designed to be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps or ladder can be surrounded by a barrier such as those described above. For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the measurement is done on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool.

If an aboveground pool has a barrier on the top of the pool, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches. Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of openings in a barrier and by using self-closing and self-latching gates.

To prevent a young child from getting through a fence or other barrier, all openings should be small enough so that a 4-inch diameter sphere cannot pass through. This size is based on the head breadth and chest depth of a young child.

Gates

There are two kinds of gates which might be found on a residential property. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier.

Pedestrian Gates are the gates people walk through. Swimming pool barriers should be equipped with a gate or gates which restrict access to the pool. A locking device should be included in the gate design. Gates should open out from the pool and should be self closing and self-latching. If a gate is properly designed, even if the gate is not completely latched, a young child pushing on the gate in order to enter the pool area will at least close the gate and may actually engage the latch. When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

Other gates should be equipped with self-latching devices. The self-latching devices should be installed as described for pedestrian gates.

How to Prevent a Child from Getting UNDER / THROUGH a Pool Barrier

In many homes, doors open directly onto the pool area or onto a patio which leads to the pool. In such cases, the wall of the house is an important part of the pool barrier, and passage through any doors in the house wall should be controlled by security measures. The importance of controlling a young child’s movement from house to pool is demonstrated by the statistics obtained during CPSC’s study of pool incidents in California, Arizona and Florida. Almost half (46 percent) of the children who became victims of pool accidents were last seen in the house just before they were found in the pool.

All doors which give access to a swimming pool should be equipped with an audible alarm which sounds when the door and/or screen are opened. The alarm should sound for 30 seconds or more within 7 seconds after the door is opened and should be loud, at least 85 decibels, when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism. The alarm sound should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm. The alarm should have an automatic reset feature. Because adults will want to pass through house doors in the pool barrier without setting off the alarm, the alarm should have a switch that allows adults to temporarily deactivate the alarm for up to 15 seconds. The deactivation switch could be a touch pad (keypad) or a manual switch, and should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door covered by the alarm. This height was selected based on the reaching ability of young children.

Power safety covers can be installed on pools to serve as security barriers. Power safety covers should conform to the specifications in ASTM F 1346-91. This standard specifies safety performance requirements for pool covers to protect young children from drowning. Self-closing doors with self-latching devices could also be used to safeguard doors which give ready access to a swimming pool.

Indoor Pools

When a pool is located completely within a house, the walls that surround the pool should be equipped to serve as pool safety barriers. Measures recommended above where a house wall serves as part of a safety barrier also apply for all the walls surrounding an indoor pool.

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