Preventing California Swimming Pool Injuries and Deaths This Summer: Fixing Unsafe Drains and Pool Safety Awareness

pool safetyIn 2008, the federal government passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The bill was named after the granddaughter of the former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III. The seven year old girl died when she was entrapped by the suction of a spa drain.

The law was made to prevent drowning deaths and serious injuries caused by swimming pool drain entrapment. It required that commercial, city, and or club pools be fitted with approved anti-entrapment safety drain covers and entrapment avoidance systems to meet national standards.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced yesterday the recall of over one million pool and spa safety drain covers. The commission found that labs used faulty standards to certify many of the recalled drain covers. This resulted in inaccurate flow ratings. The recall came after a CPSC investigation that involved the subpoenaing of over 17,000 pages of documents from testing laboratories.

Eight manufacturers products were listed in the recall. The manufacturers are A & A, AquaStar, Color Match, Custom Molded Products, Hayward Pool Products, Pentair Water Pool & Spa, Rising Dragon, and Waterway. For a complete description of the products you may go to the CPSC website.

The State of California also has passed laws to reduce entrapment injuries caused by faulty swimming pool drains (The Public Pool and Spa Safety Act, Assembly Bill 1020) In November, 2010 pools at Alameda High Schools were closed for failure to comply with these laws. The pools have since been repaired.

The CPSC has issued recommendations to prevent serious swimming pool injuries and accidents. Avoid using pools or spas with broken or missing drain covers. Install a safety vacuum release system which turns off the pump if a blockage occurs. In the event someone is trapped by the suction of a drain try to put a hand between the drain and the persons body to break the seal as opposed to just pulling the trapped person from the drain.

The CPSC has also launched a swimming safety program called “Simple Steps Save Lives.” It recommends staying close and watching children in and around the pool. Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa. Keep kids away from pool drains, pipes and other openings. If a child is missing, the first place you should look is the pool or spa. Proper safety equipment can also save lives. Have a proper fence or other enclosure around pools and spas; install lockable safety covers on pools and spas; install pool and gate alarms to signal when kids go near the water; and maintain safe pool drains.

The statistics about swimming injuries and deaths are shocking. 76% of reported deaths involve children under the age of 5. There are over 5,000 pool and spa submersion incidents per year. 96% of submersion victims will die with deaths usually occurring on the same day as the drowning. For those surviving the initial drowning, only 4% on average will live longer than a week. Those that do often suffer severe brain injuries requiring life long medical care.

As a swimming pool accident attorney, I see first hand the devastating effects that can be caused by unsafe pools and poor pool supervision. Product liability laws, and safety standards are there to protect all swimmers. By complying with these safety laws, and using good swimming pool safety practices, we can all do our part to help prevent these types of life threatening injuries and deaths.


USA Today, Drain cover recall could close thousands of pools, May 27, 2011
CPSC, Eight Manufacturers Recall Pool and In-Ground Spa Drain Covers Due to Incorrect Ratings Covers Pose Possible Entrapment Hazard to Swimmers, May 26, 2011

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