Articles Posted in Swimming Pool Accidents

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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.

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Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools, Consumer Product Safety Commission Continue reading

The long and lazy days of summer are finally here and many of us are spending them by the pool. We hope you enjoy these times with your friends and family. And please remember to think about safety.

Each year in the U.S., nearly 5,000 children under age 15 are treated for pool- or spa-related injuries at hospital emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Nearly 400 children under age 15 are killed in swimming pool and spa drownings. More than 75 percent of these children are under the age of 5 and the majority of these deaths occur at private residences. But injuries can happen at any pool where someone stops paying attention or is negligent, including hotel swimming pools, community centers and other places.

Prevent injuries this summer by talking about the rules of safety with your family and friends.

Pool Owners. You have a responsibility to keep your pool area safe for family and invited guests and to secure it from others. You must keep your pool behind a fence which is at least four feet tall and secures with a self-latching and self-closing gate. But we encourage you to go a step further. Try walking around your fenced-in pool area. Are there areas where a young child could easily get in on their own? If so, make adjustments.

If you have questions, a good resource is your town’s local building department.

Drain Covers. Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings which could cause entrapment.

Home Spa Safety. If you have a home spa, install and use a child-proof locked safety cover to keep children out.

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Watch Children Closely. Before the swimming season, learn CPR. Then when you head to the pool, set aside all distractions and watch the children. Avoid distractions such as reading, cell phone calls, and texting–supervision should be treated like a job.

When supervising young children, swim with them and practice “touch supervision.” For older children, watch them and be involved with them even if you are not swimming. Talk to them and let them know if they are doing something they should not be. If you are part of a group of adults watching children swim, designate someone the “pool watcher” so that the children are supervised at all times. But still supervise your own children at all times.

Likewise, at hotel and community pools, do not rely on lifeguards to watch your children.

Dress Children Appropriately. Make sure children are not wearing swimming suits or hair accessories that can get caught in pool drains or other openings.

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Poolside Toys. Many pool accidents involve diving board, sports equipment, rafts and pool slides. Always look before you use. If something looks unsteady, do not use it.

Many pools no longer have diving boards because homeowner’s insurance companies have stopped providing coverage for them. But if you are going to dive, make sure the water is at least 10 feet deep.

Avoid portable pool slides, inflatable toys and using backyard trampolines with the pool. These products may not be designed for use with a pool or may be defective. In one Massachusetts case, a Colorado woman visiting the state died in 2006 after she slid down a Banzai brand inflatable slide at a backyard pool. It partially deflated, causing her to strike her head on concrete by the pool. The Consumer Product Safety Commission later recalled 21,000 of the Banzai brand inflatable slides and continues to recall unsafe pool toys and equipment each year.

Broken Glass. Do not bring beer bottles and glass out to the pool. Serious accidents can happen if the glass breaks in or near the pool and someone steps in it. If there is broken glass in the pool, it will be invisible and therefore impossible to find safely. Beyond injury, you will have a lot of clean-up. First you will have to drain the pool and then you will have to sweep it thoroughly.
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Child SwimmingMany of us will spend the last few weeks of summer by the pool, with family and friends, at a slower pace. Relax and enjoy it, but also remember you have responsibilities if young children are around the pool. When a child is left unsupervised, tragedies can happen quickly, sometimes within seconds. In fact, a child who is submerged under water can lose consciousness within just two minutes. Within four to six minutes, permanent brain injury can occur.

This happens too often. Last summer, nearly 140 children in the U.S. died in swimming pool drownings between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) figures. Another 170 children suffered near-fatal incidents in pools or spas. All the children were 15 and under.

Swimming pool drownings are preventable. If parents, family and friends at the pool work together, you can keep swimming a safe and fun experience for young children.

Our injury attorneys share a few safety reminders:

Watch Young Children. Never leave your child alone in the water or near the water. That includes kiddie pools. At the pool, set aside all distractions: your cell phone, magazines and engaging conversation.

Take a Break from Distraction. If you become distracted or fatigued while watching your child, take a break. Ask them to come out of the pool for a little while.

Swim with your Child. Practice “touch supervision” with young children and keep them within reach at all times. As your child gets older, enroll them in swimming lessons. Make a point to get in the pool with them regularly. You can evaluate their strength as a swimmer best from the water and show them how to handle the water around other children.

Swim with a Buddy. Make sure your child knows they must always swim with someone else.

Lifejackets and Floats. Flotation tubes and rafts are not intended to support your children. To give your child extra protection, explore the U.S. Coast Guard website for information on personal flotation devices.

Lifeguards. At community pools, take note of the lifeguard stations and ask how many lifeguards are on-site. But do not rely on the lifeguards. Watch your own children.

Explain the Safety Rules to Your Child. Explain the rules of pool safety often to your child so they understand your priority is to keep them safe.

Not a Parent? If you are not a parent, listen to what your friends or relatives are telling their children. Be aware of their concerns and try to help create a safe pool environment.
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Swimming pool behind a fence

After another long winter here in Massachusetts, many of us are looking forward to some time by the pool. Whether you are a homeowner or a pool guest, take time to consider the rules of safety now so you can enjoy this time of year.

As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to keep your home reasonably safe for your family and your invited guests. If you own a pool, you have additional legal responsibilities to keep the swimming area safe. A safe swimming pool is critically important when children live at home or will be visiting. In fact, one third of all children who die between the ages of one and four are drowning victims in pools and spas, and hundreds more are critically injured.

Massachusetts regulates home swimming pools very closely. Here are some of the legal requirements and some common sense tips for the poolside.

Fencing. The law in Massachusetts requires homeowners to enclose pools with a fence at least four feet tall. It must have a self-closing lock which opens outward from the pool. Homes with a back door that opens onto a pool deck must have a pool alarm. 

Diving Boards. Diving into a pool presents the risk of severe personal injury due to head and neck injuries. Diving boards are regulated for their size and height over water, and the water should be at least nine feet deep in the diving area. Shallow areas should be marked to prevent diving board injuries. Many insurance companies will request that your remove your diving board entirely as a safety precaution.

Pool Drains. Ask the pool owner where all the pool drains and suctions are and make sure your child steers clear of them. When a child is pulled into suction, they can become entrapped with a strong force, causing drowning and death. Make sure your child is not wearing any loose hair accessories or a bathing suit with loose straps that could get pulled in. Federal law changed in 2008, requiring public pools to start using drain covers to reduce suction deaths, but private homeowners may not have made the change.

Portable and Inflatable Pools. Though they are much smaller than in-ground pools, portable and inflatable pools can pose serious risks for injury, especially to toddlers.

Pool Slides. Whether it is a fixture or an inflatable, ask yourself if a slide looks like it can support you without tipping over. Ask the homeowner how long they have had the slide and if there have been any problems. In 2006, a woman died in Massachusetts after using a Banzai brand inflatable slide. The now-recalled slide collapsed under her as she slid down. She struck her head and later died. 

Watch Children Closely. Give your children your complete attention while they are near the pool. Drowning claims more lives among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children and teens ages 1 to 14. Set aside your cell phone, magazines and other distractions and watch your children. If you are in a group of adults, take turns being the “pool watcher.” Have that person step a few feet away from the conversation and concentrate solely on watching the children.

Poolside Toys. Avoid any toy or equipment that is not meant for use at the pool, including trampolines. Inspect all equipment before use. 

 

Broken Glass. Serious accidents can happen when beer bottles and other glass are used near the pool. Broken glass at the poolside is obviously dangerous, so it makes sense to use only plastic or metal containers near the pool. Glass in the pool is even more dangerous–clear glass simply cannot be seen in the water, and will be a serious hazard to anybody using the pool. If there is broken glass in the pool, the only safe remedy is to drain the pool to sweep it out.

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Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. die in drownings. Many of these are young children who drown in swimming pools. Last summer alone, nearly 140 children under age 15 drowned in swimming pools and spa tubs, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

While the risk of personal injury and wrongful death from drowning has long been known, new dangers have emerged at pools in recent years. As many homeowners have removed diving boards for safety and insurance reasons, many others are purchasing inflatable slides, sports nets and trampolines to enjoy by the pool.

Two recent Massachusetts cases touch on these risks. Last month, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered a new trial in Dos Santos v. Coleta, where the plaintiff was paralyzed in 2005 when he jumped off a trampoline and struck his head in a two-foot inflatable wading pool. The pool and trampoline were owned by his half brother, the defendant.

The SJC found the trial court judge provided improper instructions when he said the jury could stop deliberating if they concluded the danger of jumping off a trampoline and into the pool was “open and obvious.” 

The SJC ruled that the trial judge should have also instructed that a property owner is not relieved from correcting such dangers in cases where they can or should anticipate that the dangerous condition will cause harm.

“Because we conclude that a landowner has a duty to remedy an open and obvious danger, where he has created and maintained that danger with the knowledge that lawful entrants would (and did) choose to encounter it despite the obvious risk of doing so, we now reverse,” wrote Justice Cordy.

The plaintiff, Cleber Coleta Dos Santos, had been playing with his young son on the trampoline when he attempted to flip off and into the pool at his half brother’s Framingham home. He suffered permanent paralysis. His half brother and sister-in-law owned the home, but had moved out a few days prior, leaving the trampoline positioned next to the pool where it could be used in the backyard. The SJC noted that the homeowner disregarded warnings printed on the side of the pool against jumping or diving into the pool.

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The Banzai inflatable slide is another product which has caused injury and death in Massachusetts in recent years.

You should not see any Banzai slides for in-ground pools this summer. They were recalled in May 2012, after a woman’s death in Massachusetts and two reports of serious injury in other states. The inflatable slides were designed to sit on the edge of a pool so swimmers can climb to the top and slide down as water sprays. But the structure easily deflated, removing support for the user. It was also easy to knock down, even without windy conditions.

In 2006, a 29-year-old Colorado mother visiting Massachusetts fractured her neck and struck her head while using a Banzai inflatable slide. When she stepped up and started to slide, there was not enough support and her head hit the pavement near the edge of the pool. The slide had been partially deflated. The woman died the next day at a Boston hospital.

In October 2011, a jury in Salem Superior Court ordered Toys R Us to pay more than $20 million to the woman’s family, finding the Banzai slide did not comply with federal safety standards for swimming pool slides. Toys R Us had sold the product to the victim. Amazon.com – the website where the product was sold through – and manufacturer SLB Toys USA settled with the woman’s family after the trial began.

In May 2012, Walmart and Toys R Us recalled 21,000 Banzai slides for in-ground pools, asking consumers to return the product for a full refund. Banzai continues to sell inflatable slides and water castles which are stand alone.

Toys R Us recently appealed the case to the Supreme Judicial Court, arguing the the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation cited by the woman’s family does not apply to inflatable pool slides, but only to rigid pool slides.

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pool-diving-200.jpgThe 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.

Texas saw 13 drownings, the highest number nationwide through the mid-summer report, with California, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania each reporting 5 swimming pool drownings.

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.

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pool.jpgWith 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.

Watch Children Swim. Always make sure someone is watching children swim. Assign at least one adult to the task of watching the children.
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banzai.jpgAbout 21,000 inflatable swimming pool slides are being recalled after the death of a 29-year-old woman in Massachusetts and two other people sustained serious personal injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Walmart of Bentonville, Ark. and Toys R Us Inc., of Wayne, NJ announced the recall Thursday, May 10. The Banzai inflatable water slides are designed for use with in-ground pools, but the CPSC says they pose a risk for injury. They can deflate and a user can hit the cement ground underneath the slide. The slide is also unsecure and can fall over, in both windy and still conditions. Finally, it carries inadequate warnings and instructions for users.

The CPSC is aware of one death and two serious personal injuries. In one case, a 29-year-old Colorado mother died in Andover, to the north of Boston. The woman died after going down a Banzai inflatable slide and hitting her head on the pavement below. The slide had been partially deflated.

The two injuries occurred in a similar manner, one leaving a 24-year-old man from Springfield, Mo. a quadriplegic. In a third case, an Allentown, Pa. woman fractured her neck.

The recalled pool slides were manufactured in China by Manley Toys, Ltd. and sold at Walmart and Toys R Us stores nationwide from January 2005 through June 2009. The defective product was sold for about $250. The vinyl slides have a blue base, yellow sliding mat and an arch going over the slide. The words ‘Banzai Splash’ are printed on the side of the defective slide.

The CPSC urges consumers to immediately stop using the defective product and return it to a Walmart or Toys R Us for a full refund. Consumers can also cut out the two safety warnings on the slide and return those for a refund. For additional information, visit www.walmart.com and www.toysrus.com.

Consumers can determine whether they have the slide by clicking here to look at pictures posted by the CPSC. If you still have the box and packaging, look for barcode number 2675315734 and model number 15734.
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inflatablepoolB.jpgA surprising study published last month revealed that one child in the U.S. dies every five days in portable swimming pools during the warm weather months.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics challenges the popular idea that in-ground swimming pools pose a much larger safety risk. This study is significant because drowning has become the second leading cause of death among children age one to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The study reports 209 deaths and 35 near-drownings of children under 12 in portable pools from 2001 through 2009. More than 90 percent of the children were under 5 and 81 percent of the swimming pool accidents occurred during the summer months.

The study’s classification of portable pools includes small wading pools less than 18 inches deep, inflatable pools and other soft-sided pools up to four feet deep.

The study was conducted by National Hospital and Independent Safety Consulting in Rockville, Maryland. Researchers say the findings are comparable to in-ground pool drownings.

Researchers say owners of portable pools often fail to take the same safety precautions as those who own in-ground pools. They set pools up quickly without taking the time to install fencing, pool alarms, safety covers and lockable ladders.

The numbers also show in many cases, children are swimming in portable pools without adult supervision. Children were supervised by parents in only 43 percent of the drownings and swimming pool accidents. Parents were home 73 percent of the time.

Click here to read more about the study in The Boston Globe.
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With the warm weather coming to Massachusetts, our kids will be looking for the closest pool or swimming hole to cool off. Parents need to know the basic rules of safety so that a day at the pool or beach does not result in serious personal injury or death.

Each day, about 10 people die in unintentional drownings across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these victims are young children. For every person who dies, many more are treated in hospitals for non-fatal submersion injuries. Alcohol use is involved in up to half of teen and adult deaths associated with water recreation.

Many of these injuries were preventable had parents followed the basic safety rules for pools and swimming, including:

  • Residential pools must be secured by a fence at least four feet tall.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • If you have a home spa, use a child-proof locked safety cover to keep children out.
  • Before allowing kids to dive, make sure the water is at least 10 feet deep.
  • Always watch your children when they are in the water, even if they know how to swim. Do not drink alcohol if you are supervising young swimmers.
  • Adults watching a group of children swim should assign at least one adult to the exclusive task of watching the children.

Click here for the complete list of swimming and water safety tips from the Boston swimming pool accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck.
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