We wish our friends, families and colleagues a wonderful Fourth of July holiday week. Whether you enjoy the fireworks in Boston or travel to Cape Cod, we hope you enjoy a more leisurely pace, some good BBQ and a little time in the water. But before you swim, we urge you to remember the rules of water safety at all times.
Ten people die in unintentional drownings each day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While young children suffer a high number of drowning deaths, swimmers of all ages are at risk during the holiday week and summer months, when we spend more time near the water. This is partly because of our water skills – many of us can’t swim or we overestimate our abilities. According to the American Red Cross, 80 percent of Americans claim they can swim, but just 56 percent can actually perform the five basic water competency skills.
Alcohol consumption also tends to rise during celebrations and gatherings. Alcohol consumption can interfere with one’s ability to interpret their surroundings and respond in any setting, but especially in extreme heat. Near the water, alcohol is particularly potent, factoring into up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC.
Swimming Pool Safety
Pools should be protected by four-sided fencing which stands at least four feet tall. Doors should be self-closing and self-latching. If you are a parent, avoid visiting homes with inadequate fencing because this is the first and most important line of defense in protecting your child against drowning.
Pools should also have anti-entrapment drain covers and safety release systems to protect children from drain entrapment. Ask pool owners where the drains are before you swim.
Watch children closely. Commit to avoiding distractions such as cell phones, conversation or grilling.
In general, beware of any activity which encourages you to move your gaze up, down or away from the pool. If a child is struggling in the water, they need an immediate response and they cannot call out to you if they are starting to drown.
Never consume alcohol at the pool.
Swim with young children and keep them within arm’s reach.
When using an unfamiliar pool, take a test swim on your own without your child.
Walk into a pool using steps or a ladder, rather than diving.
When you are done swimming, if you have young children, leave the pool area and make sure it’s properly secured.
Water Safety in Lakes and Ponds
If you are swimming, look for a public or private beach staffed by lifeguards.
Adults and children should wear life jackets when in lakes and ponds, on a boat or a dock.
Do not consume alcohol at the lake or pond.
Always swim with a friend or family member.
Closely supervise young children to prevent drownings. At lakes and ponds, there are more elements to consider, including shifting sand and dark water.
Enter the water feet first from a beach or other areas marked as safe entrances.
Only dive in areas which are clearly marked as safe for diving. Jumping in feet first is safer.
Never dive from bridges or boats.
Be responsive to water and weather conditions. Leave the water immediately when there is thunder and lightning.
Pay attention to boats, personal watercraft and other swimmers on the pond which could interfere with your ability to swim safely.
Water Safety at the Ocean
Do not expect your family to be ready for the beach just because they have experience in a swimming pool or even a lake or pond. The ocean is much more challenging and unpredictable.
Choose beaches staffed by lifeguards. In addition to responding to emergencies, lifeguards can share information about water conditions, such as the tide schedule, vegetation, marine animals and fish.
Just like every lake and pond, remember every beach has different conditions.
Swim with young children.
Never swim alone; swim with a buddy.
Learn how to identify a rip tide and how to respond. According to the American Red Cross, swimmers are advised to swim parallel to the shore line until they are free from the rip tide. When swimmers can’t do this, they can attempt to just float and tread water until they have moved out of the rip tide.
Leave the water immediately if you hear thunder or see lighting. You should also head back to shore if you are traveling in a boat. If you can’t return to shore, lie in the bottom of the boat or shelter in the cabin if you can.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck are committed to providing clients with aggressive and thorough representation. We represent clients in all types of personal injury cases, including car accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, dog bites, swimming pool injuries and premises liability cases. For a free legal consultation, contact us today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Swimming lessons have certainly changed over the years. Parents are signing children up earlier, as young as 6 months old, to get them used to the water. A recent WBUR report explored whether this is all for fun or if children in today’s swim lessons are actually learning enough to reduce their risk of drowning.
As a parent, ask your child’s swim instructor about their goals. Experts interviewed by WBUR said the goal should be water survival and broader pool safety skills.
“Aquatic safety is about multiple layers of redundancy, swim lessons just being one of those layers,” said a director from the YMCA in Greater Boston.
According to the report, another essential layer is strong supervision from parents, guardians and lifeguards. As personal injury lawyers in Boston, we want to add that a third layer is property owners. They must remain aware of their responsibility to properly maintain and secure pools, from pool fences to drains to diving boards.
A few insights from the report:
- Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children in Massachusetts.
- There are very few studies which quantify the effectiveness of swim lessons.
- But one 2009 study has found children under 4 who take swim lessons have a significant advantage. The study, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, found children who participated in swim lessons had an 88 percent reduced risk of drowning. The study examined 300 cases of unintentional drownings among children age 1 to 19 years old. Researchers only evaluated whether children participated in classes; they did not evaluate what skills children actually learned, so this is a future step.
- The American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) had advised against swimming lessons for children under 4. After this study, the academy changed its recommendation in 2010, saying children ages 1 to 4 can develop water competence through swimming lessons. As for children under age 1, the AAP noted that “water-survival skills programs for infants may make compelling videos for the Internet, but no scientific study has yet demonstrated these classes are effective.”
In June, Olympian Bode Miller announced his family had lost his 19-month-old daughter in a swimming pool drowning in California. This tragedy has raised awareness about the risk of drownings, and the deep pain and devastation to families.
Drownings claim too many lives each year. Here in Massachusetts, a 2-year-old tragically drowned in his family’s swimming pool in Lynn earlier this month.
Nationwide, 463 children age 4 or younger drowned in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was an increase over both 2015 and 2016. This week, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke about the rise in swimming pool drownings among young children and called for the federal government to investigate further.
What Parents Can Take From This Report
Asking Permission. Swim instructors should teach children to ask for permission before they get into the pool. They should always ask for permission, from parents, lifeguards or swimming instructors. Reinforce this lesson.
Proper Supervision. Parents should commit to watching children closely in the pool, even if the child is participating in a swim lesson. Carry your cell phone but set it aside. It is a scary thought, but in the time you take to send a text, your child could drown, even if they are a strong swimmer for their age. A child can drown quickly and silently under water.
When visiting family members and friends, consider leaving young children at home (with a trusted adult) or skipping the visit altogether.
Online Research. Research the swimming pool before you sign your child up for lessons. Look at the website to see the credentials of the pool owner and staff. Read online reviews. Also ask your friends and neighbors for feedback on the staff and what children are learning.
Another resource is the local town or city hall. Ask the health department about inspections and complaints which have been investigated. You will learn how well the pool is maintained and if the swimming pool owner responds promptly.
In-Person Research. Swimming classes can be busy, with a new round of children and parents starting classes every half hour. Still, take time to ask the swim instructor about their background and as we said, to explain their goals for the class.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston personal injury lawyers of Breakstone, White & Gluck represent children and families who have suffered pool drownings in Massachusetts. If you are parent, we urge you to carefully plan and supervise your child at the pool. If you are a pool owner, you have a responsibility to properly secure your pool with a fence and make sure your children and others are protected from potential injury.
Breakstone, White & Gluck represents individuals in all types of personal injury cases in Massachusetts, including car accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian injuries, medical malpractice and premises liability cases. If you have been injured, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also send us a message using our contact form.
As a pool owner, you have a responsibility to secure your pool with a strong, adequate fence. Many property owners do so because it is the law and to prevent neighborhood children or trespassers from breaking in. But they may have a false security when it comes to friends, families and young children they invite over.
Many pool accidents and drownings actually involve invited guests, people we may know well and have over regularly. Let them enjoy your home, but block unrestricted and unsupervised access to your pool.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a survey of swimming pool accidents in Arizona, California and Florida. Data showed drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under age 5. Most of these children – 75 percent – were between 1 and 3 years old.
Fewer than two percent of pool accidents resulted from children trespassing on the property. More often, children knew the pool owner, with 65 percent of accidents occurring in pools owned by an immediate family member. Another 33 percent happened in pools owned by relatives and friends.
More telling is what happened before these accidents:
- Most of the children were being supervised by at least one parent when they drowned
- Nearly half of the children were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred
- Another 23 percent were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard
- Some 77 percent of children had been missing for 5 minutes or less when they were found
Adding an extra layer of fencing may make a difference in preventing these accidents.
Pool Fence Recommendations
- Self-Closing. A pool fence should be self-closing and self-latching. It should open from the pool side and should be maintained so it can easily latch.
- Fence Height. A pool fence should be at least four feet tall and four feet above the grade of the ground outside the fence.
- Release Mechanism. You want to prevent children from reaching the latch. When the release mechanism is less than 54 inches above the grade, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate and installed on the side facing the pool. Also, make sure there is no opening greater than ½ inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism.
- Bottom of the Fence. If your fence stands on a concrete surface, the clearance between the bottom of the fence and the ground should not exceed four inches. For fences on softer surfaces, such as grass, the maximum clearance is two inches.
- Fence Spacing. The space between the vertical fence slats should not exceed four inches.
- Chain Link Fences. For chain-link fences, the diamond-shaped openings should be no larger than 1 ¾ inches.
- Decorative Fences. Fencing with decorative openings should follow the same standard as chain link fences and not exceed 1 ¾ inch.
- Backyard Doors. Massachusetts requires pool alarms when doors from a home open into a pool enclosure area. For instance, if there are three sides of fencing around the pool and the home serves as the fourth side.
- Pool Alarms. Purchase a pool alarm even if you are not required to by law. Pool drownings happen quickly and often silently. A pool alarm interrupts that process and provides you warning if someone is entering the gate.
- Above Ground Pools. For above ground pools, build a fence on top of the structure as a barrier. Remove or lock the pool ladder when not in use. For another layer of protection, you can also add a fencing structure around the ladder and lock that when not in use.
- Pool Covers. Consider a power pool safety cover to add another layer of protection. Purchase one which conforms to the specifications in ASTMF 1346-91.
Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools, Consumer Product Safety Commission
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Our Boston personal injury lawyers have over 100 years combined experience handling personal injury and premises liability claims, including swimming pool accidents. If you or a family member has been injured, it is important to learn your rights. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports pool drownings have claimed the lives of 90 children in the U.S. since Memorial Day, a sober reminder for parents and caregivers to review how they are protecting their youth.
These figures were released for Pool Safely Day, an event being observed nationwide this week, from July 22 to July 29, 2012. In Massachusetts, the South Shore YMCA in Quincy and the Boys & Girls Club of Taunton were scheduled to host educational events.
The CPSC reported 90 children under age 15 have suffered swimming pool drownings and an additional 106 children in the same age category have required emergency response for near-drowning incidents at pools. The figures were released by the CPSC’s Pool Safely: Simple Steps Save Lives campaign.
The figures show younger children are most vulnerable, with 72 percent of the drowning victims younger than 5 years old.
Parents should make sure their children have taken swimming lessons and instruct them on ways to protect themselves, such as to stay away from pool drains, pipes and other openings; stay in certain areas of the pool and only use diving boards after asking parents. Children 13 and older should also be trained in CPR.
Parents and caregivers should also:
- Stay close and alert when watching children in and around the pool.
- Never leave children unattended.
- Learn CPR.
- If you own a pool or spa, make sure it has appropriate safety equipment. At pools, that includes fencing, a lockable safety cover, drain covers which match federal requirements, life rings and a reaching pool. Spas should have lockable covers for when not in use.
Click here for a full list of pool safety tips from the Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck of Massachusetts.
- Midsummer Drowning Checkup: 90 Child Drownings Nationwide since Memorial Day, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Swimming Pool Accidents, Breakstone, White & Gluck.
- Pool Safely website.
- Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, Pool Safely.
With the warm weather and pool season upon us, we wanted to take a moment to discuss important pool safety precautions to prevent injuries and drowning.
A swimming pool holds many risks for injuries, from defective equipment to unsecured locks. The biggest hazard, of course, is drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of death for young children ages 1 to 4 in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. In children under 15, non-fatal drowning is more common than drowning. Non-fatal drowning happens when the brain loses oxygen due to submersion. This can cause brain damage and long-term disabilities.
In many cases, drowning and other pool-side injuries can be prevented if everyone using your pool is closely monitored at all times and your equipment complies with safety guidelines. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck share these tips for pool owners:
Fencing. Residential pools must be secured by a fence at least four-feet tall. More than half of all swimming pool drownings among young children could be prevented by four-sided fencing that separates the pool from the house and yard. The fence should have self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward.
If your house serves as a fourth side of a fence around a pool, install door alarms and always use them.
Pool Alarms. Install pool and gate alarms to alert you when children go near your pool.
Drain Entrapments. Keep children away from drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments. Purchase drain covers that comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. The federal law covers pools which are open to the public, apartment complexes and hotels, but you can purchase these covers for your residential pool. Ask your local pool supplier or visit PoolSafely.gov.
Diving Boards. Never install a diving board for an above-ground pool. If you install one on your in-ground pool, make sure the water is at least 10 to 12 feet deep. Diving is a leading cause of neck and spinal cord injuries. Check with your insurance agent or insurance broker to see if any special precautions are required under your homeowners insurance policy.
Pool Inspection. Call your pool dealer or local board of health and ask for the name of a pool safety inspector.
Telephone. Always keep a telephone outside near the pool in case of emergency.
Glass. Never allow glass in or near the pool. Broken glass is dangerous in the area around the pool, but even more dangerous in the pool itself where it can be completely invisible. We know from the cases that we have handled that broken glass in a pool can lead to serious personal injuries.