Over the past year, many of us have missed out on seeing friends and loved ones. If you are planning a summer gathering to make up for lost time, we urge you to consider water safety, especially if you own a backyard swimming pool.
With Massachusetts schools about to start summer break, there is a high level of distraction in many homes. Households may have family members working remotely and summer may add to the unpredictable schedules we established during the COVID-19 emergency. But you must be vigilant if you own a pool because the risk for injury is very real. One can drown quickly, in a matter of seconds, and those injured are often young children.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 397 children were killed in swimming pool or spa submersions each year from 2016 to 2018. These children were all under 15 years old. During the same period, there was also an annual average of 6,200 children under 15 treated at hospitals for non-fatal injuries associated with pool or spa submersions.
Already in Massachusetts this year, we have seen several lives lost or nearly lost to drownings in swimming pools, ponds and lakes. In this blog, we focus on how homeowners can reduce the risk for injury and drowning in backyard swimming pools, and their legal responsibilities.
Massachusetts Property Owners Have a Duty to Use Reasonable Care
In Massachusetts, homeowners have a responsibility to use reasonable care to keep their property in reasonably safe condition. When it comes to swimming pools, a property owner’s duty starts with following Massachusetts building regulations to secure pools. They must also maintain safe areas around pools.
It is paramount that Massachusetts homeowners also exercise caution with alcohol. Homeowners can reduce the risk for many drownings and injuries by simply limiting their own alcohol consumption and that of all their guests of legal drinking age. Minors should never be allowed to consume alcohol or a homeowner can face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit if someone is injured.
Secure Your Swimming Pool With Strong Fencing
In Massachusetts, the state building code requires property owners to secure swimming pools behind 4-foot high fencing. There are different specifications for above-ground and underground pools, along with pools that use one side of the home as part of the fence.
Pools must be secured with locking devices that face outward away from the pool. The locks must be self-closing and self-latching.
Keep Pool Areas Free From Hazards
Be aware of other potential hazards beyond your actual pool. Your pool area may have outdoor furniture, rafts and floats, a diving board or a slide. One way to prevent a pool-related injury is to limit pool accessories. Secure the products you buy out of sight when you are not using your pool.
We caution you about purchasing diving boards and slides. Accidents involving these products can be serious, resulting in a head injury or a spinal cord injury, which can lead to long-term disability or death. Many homeowners have decided these are just not worth the potential safety risk.
Recognize that these products can be poorly designed or incorrectly installed. A product may not be the right fit for your pool design or reliably support your guests, even if it meets CPSC safety standards. However, if you choose to make a purchase, you should always hire an experienced pool professional to assist you with installation and your homeowner’s insurance agent to make sure your policy provides coverage.
Protect Young Children
In Massachusetts, property owners are responsible for securing pools from young children. Property owners can be held liable for drowning or other injuries suffered by young children, whether they are invited guests or are trespassing. The law recognizes that young children may not understand when they approach a potential hazard. As a property owner, think about how your pool looks from the street, from your yard and from inside your home. Bright-colored rafts and large crowds can quickly capture a child’s attention. Then think about how you have secured your pool.
Keep Gatherings Small
When you invite guests over, keep gatherings small so you can observe the pool area and enjoy the company.
Closely Monitor Guests Near Your Swimming Pool
Never invite anyone over to your home to use your swimming pool when you are not there or are engaged in another activity, such as work. Ask if adult guests know how to swim and if children have attended swimming lessons.
If you have young children, commit to watch them and any friends they invite over closely, even if they are not using your pool. Limit the size of gatherings so you can give the children your full attention.
Make the same commitment to safety if you are the parent of a teenager, even if you normally give them more freedom. Set summer rules and make sure your teen understands: they can only have friends over when you are home and gatherings should be kept small. They should always ask before using the swimming pool and you will not permit alcohol.
Whenever you have any guests over, check that your pool is fully secured before they arrive. Not just from outside, but also from guests and children in your home and backyard. Once your guests arrive, it can help to utilize a pool camera, sounding alarm or other technology, even if no one is using the pool. You can also take the low-tech approach of sitting outside where you can see both the pool and the gate. This step shows your guests and children you are truly committed to safety and want them to have fun, but also act responsibly so everyone gets home safely.
Restrict Alcohol Consumption by Your Guests; Never Allow Teens to Drink At Your Home
Carefully consider whether you want to allow your guests to consume alcohol in your home, especially when they come over to swim or are driving. This decision comes with a lot of responsibility. The easiest approach is to not allow alcohol consumption. If you do allow your guests to drink, practice moderation and good judgment. Never let them drive home under the influence.
As for swimming, remember that alcohol and pools are a dangerous combination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with all water recreation. Drinking beer or liquor in the warm weather can contribute to dehydration, which can raise the risk for drowning and submersion injuries.
Massachusetts recognizes social host liability. There can be serious consequences for bad decisions. Homeowners can face criminal charges, including jail time, if they allow minors under 21 to consume alcohol at their home or any property they control, under M.G.L. c. 138 § 34 . Parents can also be criminally charged and convicted if police can prove they left their home and were aware minors were consuming alcohol there in their absence. Minors can also be criminally charged.
In addition to criminal charges, a homeowner can also face a civil lawsuit from those injured as a result of a minor’s alcohol consumption at their home.
Limit Cell Phone Use and Distractions
One can easily become distracted by an email, text or social media and this can be dangerous if you have a pool. If you are checking your cell phone, you could miss the moment someone needs your help. Every second counts when it comes to saving someone from drowning. The best approach is to limit cell phone use and enjoy your guests. Keep both your home and cell phone nearby, but for emergencies only.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys provide aggressive representation and are committed to achieving the best result for clients. Founded in 1992, our personal injury law firm specializes in representing those injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others and our attorneys have been consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. We have won numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements in negligence, product liability and medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts. We offer safety tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, through which we work to prevent injuries to children and families.
If you or a family member has been injured, learn your legal rights. We represent clients across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, the North and South Shores, Cape Cod, Worcester and Central Massachusetts. For a free legal consultation, contact one of our Boston personal injury lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
It is important to maintain your yard and keep it safe at all times. But this summer, as Massachusetts recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, more people will likely spend more time at home. This means you must take extra care in protecting your home, your family and neighbors from common backyard injuries, such as falls, dog bite injuries and swimming pool accidents.
In Massachusetts, homeowners have a duty to make a reasonable effort to keep their property reasonably safe so lawful visitors are not injured. When a homeowner fails to maintain their property and someone is injured, this may result in a premises liability claim.
When children are involved, homeowners have a greater duty. Under attractive nuisance laws, property owners may be held liable if a young child is injured by an unsafe condition on their property, even if the child is trespassing. These laws recognize that children may not understand potential dangers or that they are trespassing.
Massachusetts Attractive Nuisance Law
M.G.L. c. 231, § 85Q states that a person who maintains an artificial condition upon his own land shall be liable for physical harm to children trespassing thereon under certain conditions.
A landowner can be held liable in part if they knew a child was likely to trespass or reasonably should have known, and if the landowner knew or reasonably should have known there was an unreasonable risk of death and serious bodily harm to children.
Protect Your Front and Backyard This Summer
Protect Your Pool
In Massachusetts, homeowners must enclose pools with fences which are a minimum of four feet and taller if necessary for safety. The fence should have a self-latching, self-closing gate and lock at least four feet off the ground. These requirements are meant to protect young children, as well as your lawful guests by slowing access down to your pool. A few steps you can take to secure your pool:
How old is your pool lock? Carefully inspect the integrity of your pool lock.
Inspect your fence. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published this pool safety guide on different types of fences and key specifications, such as how much space you should have between and under the fence panels. See page 6.
Consider a pool alarm. Your fence is your primary defense to keep young children out of your pool. Children can move quickly and drown silently, before you even know they have found their way into your pool. An alarm can help you respond quickly.
Think “layers of protection.” Planting large shrubs in front of your pool fence is one way to slow children down; another added benefit is children won’t be able to see the pool and are likely to forget about it.
At the end of the day: Cover your pool. Remove pool ladders and floats from the pool area and out of sight of children.
Restrain Your Dog
As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to take care of your pet, including to feed it and make sure it gets proper exercise.
As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to restrain your dog. Under Massachusetts law, you may be held liable if your dog bites or attacks. Here are a few situations when homeowners may be liable for dog bite injuries.
First, you may be held liable if your dog bites a lawful visitor. You may also be held liable if you leave your dog alone outside and it runs off your property and injures a passerby.
Then there are young children. Too young to realize the consequences, they can wander onto your property without invitation and your dog may bite. You may not even see the child come onto your property. But this is another situation when a Massachusetts homeowner may be held liable for a child’s dog bite injuries.
Just like drownings, dog bites and attacks are a frightening and debilitating experience, for children as well as owners. Some describe it as the worst experience of their life. Many victims and loved ones suffer post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What can you do to prevent a tragedy?
Invest in dog training. Hiring a trainer can help your dog master basic obedience skills.
Install a fence. Consider installing a regular fence around your yard. An invisible dog fence can be effective at keeping your dog on your property. However, it doesn’t prevent children from wandering onto your property. Fences can stop children or at least slow them down.
Remember you can’t predict how your dog will react. Many dog owners have said, “My dog is really good with kids,” just before the animal bites or attacks.
And the problem with young children in your neighborhood: a child may know you and your dog by name. They may routinely say hello when you walk your dog and have warm feelings about your pet. Your dog, however, may not feel or respond the same if the child approaches. If you have a dog, Breakstone, White & Gluck encourages you to secure and supervise your pet this summer. Remember, children are likely to be spending more time at home this summer and you may need to take additional steps.
If you have been injured, Breakstone, White & Gluck is experienced in representing young children and others after dog bites and attacks in Massachusetts. Please read our awards and settlements and contact us if we can assist you with a claim at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.
$450,000 award: Child Suffers Facial Injury and Emotional Distress in Dog Bite Attack Details
$300,000 award: Elderly woman bitten by dog, which leads to infection, sepsis and wrongful death.
$150,000 award: Dog injures cyclist, causing bike crash and other injuries. Details
Use Your Backyard Shed
Pick up your yard each day. Pick up toys and bring in pool floats, accessories and towels so they don’t attract a child’s attention.
Certain toys, games and equipment should be used, then immediately locked away. These include portable pools.
To make this easier, keep a key to your backyard shed nearby at all times this summer. Put it in your cell phone case or on a lanyard around your neck so you can easily access your shed as often as you need.
Protect Your Backyard This Summer
2020 has been a challenging year. While we are all limited by Covid 19 this summer, these are steps we can all take to protect our families, neighbors and others from unnecessary injury, and to protect ourselves financially.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers specialize in premises liability claims, including those involving swimming pool accidents, dog bites injuries and child injuries. Learn more about our law firm: www.bwglaw.com.
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.
Each year, families head into summer, hoping for fun in Massachusetts. No one expects tragedy in the backyard swimming pool. But each year, children suffer drownings and near drownings. Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children in Massachusetts and across the U.S. Young children ages 1 to 4 face the highest risk, followed by older children and teens between the ages 10 and 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Breakstone, White & Gluck, a Boston personal injury law firm, encourages parents and property owners to prepare for the swim season. By acting now, before the temperature rises, property owners and parents can minimize the risk of drowning and injury this summer.
For Pool Owners
Secure Pool Fencing
Pool owners have a responsibility to secure their pools with a strong durable fence. This is your legal responsibility and one of the most important steps you can take to prevent a child from a swimming pool drowning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pool owners install a four-sided fence with a self-closing latch around all pools and spas. The fence must be at least 4 feet tall in Massachusetts and must meet certain requirements for vertical clearance and width for fence openings. Read our past blog on pool fencing or check out this guide on a local community’s website.
If you own a pool, consider adding some additional fencing, shrubs or a planter – or several blocking access to your pool door and fence. This is called a “layers of protection” strategy and the goal is to slow children down so an adult can intervene.
Inspect Your Pool Regularly
Make it a habit to walk outside and inspect your pool daily during the summer months.
Consider purchasing a pool alarm to monitor your pool area. There are different types of alarms so do your research and select the best for your needs. But remember, a pool alarm is a supplement to your strong fencing and regularly inspecting your pool.
Pool owners should regularly maintain drain systems and ensure they work properly. Spas should be covered and locked when out of use. Children should never wear loose accessories into the pool.
Parents who sign children up for swim lessons give them an advantage. Formal swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that swim lessons are beneficial for children around age 1 and older.
Supervision: Always Watch and Avoid Distractions
Parents should swim with younger children, practicing “touch supervision.” Keep them within your reach at all times on the shallow end. Even if you are not in the pool with them, still closely watch other children and teens carefully at all times.
Keep conversation with other adults at a minimum when watching children swim. Also set aside all distractions, such as cell phones. It takes much longer than you may realize to “quickly” check your cell phone, e-mail or social media accounts. In that time, a child could drown right in front of you, quickly and silently struggling.
If you are a pool owner and have guests over, be just as vigilant in watching children swim. Try inviting over small groups – just a child or two – to enjoy your pool to keep the visit manageable.
Supervision: The Danger of “Non-Swim Time”
Learn more about the dangers of “non-swim time.” Bode Miller and his wife Morgan have recently discussed this and it’s an important term for both parents and pool owners.
The Millers tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter last year when she drowned in a neighbor’s backyard swimming pool. The child had been in the house with her mother, siblings and other adults.
”Without it being an actual swim time, my awareness and my intensity around protecting her from water was let down,” Morgan Miller said in an interview posted on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) YouTube channel.
The Millers also recorded this public service announcement for the AAP.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm. We are committed to promoting safety for children and families through our Project KidSafe campaign. We encourage parents and caretakers to supervise children by the pool and near pools this summer. We also remind property owners that they have a legal responsibility to keep a safe pool area so no one is injured. Learn more about Breakstone, White & Gluck on our website.
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.
Your swimming pool is your backyard oasis, a fun and refreshing place to beat the heat. To keep children and others safe this summer, we urge Massachusetts property owners to secure and properly maintain pools at all times. Take these steps now to help prevent injuries and drownings:
Secure your pool. In Massachusetts, pool owners are required to have fencing which stands at least 48 inches tall. Openings in the fence must be less than 4 inches in diameter. All doors to pool areas must have self-latching and self-closing devices. Homes with doors which open into the pool area must use pool alarms.
Walk around your pool fence now to look for areas which have been damaged. Make repairs right away.
Plan your pool barriers. Slow children down at every opportunity. Safety covers for pools and hot tubs are physical barriers and visual reminders which help keep children out. Remove pool ladders when you leave the pool. Lock them in pool sheds or other secured areas.
You can also place strategic barriers between your house and the pool or your neighborhood and your pool. For example, you could plant tall shrubs to restrict the line of sight from the street.
Landlines, not cell phones. Bring cell phones to the pool just in case. But set them aside so you don’t become distracted by them. Instead, rely on your portable landline phone. This is the best way to call 911. In Massachusetts, 911 calls made on cell phones are typically routed to State Police, then to a local police department or emergency response. You have to assume State Police do not know your location information until you tell them and this may delay response time.
Pool alarms. Purchase a pool alarm that will sound if anyone enters the pool area. There are many different types of alarms, including those which are triggered by movement in the water and others with wristbands you can put on your child. Do your research online and visit your local pool store for ideas.
Supervise children and teach them to swim. If you have children, teach them to swim as soon as you can. Sign them up for swim lessons each year so they continue to grow stronger. Sign yourself up for CPR and review the steps each summer.
Swim with young children, keeping them within your reach at all times. Supervise your children in the pool. If you have to leave the pool area, wait to leave together. No one else will ever watch your children with as much focus as you do.
Guests at your pool and your home. Limit the number of guests you invite to your pool and your home. If you are swimming with guests, your goal is to eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can watch your children and others swim. If you invite children, invite parents too. Watch children closely before and after they enter or exit the pool area.
You always have to be on guard if you invite people over, even if you are not inviting them to use the pool. If a young child was separated from their parents for whatever reason, could that child make it past your pool fence?
Set up an age-appropriate pool area. As children grow, each year is different. Try to delay some of the steps when it comes to the pool. For instance, you can remove your diving board so children will not be tempted. Many pool owners, even those without children, have chosen to retire diving boards because of the risk for serious head injuries if someone slips or hits their head.
Hold off on taking your child into the deep end until they are strong enough. Do not let anyone bring toys with small strings, cords or small pieces into the pool area. Remove rafts which are floating unattended so you can see every inch of the pool.
We are not saying don’t enjoy your pool. Just take it one step at a time and evaluate how you keep and secure the pool area on a regular basis.
Flotation devices. Invest in pool life jackets for your children. Make sure they are “Coast Guard approved.” Check online for reviews and product recalls on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Preventing Drownings and Injuries
As a pool owner, you have a responsibility to keep your pool safe and clear from hazards to guests and children. If someone is injured in your pool due to your negligence, you could be held liable for their injuries.
- Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children age 1-4 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Children under age 5 and those 15-24 have the highest rates of drowning (CDC).
- In 2014, there were 346 fatal drownings of children under 5 years old in the U.S., according to Pool Safely.
Young children are the most vulnerable around swimming pools. But they are not the only ones at risk around water. Summer comes and many of us let our guard down. Drownings can result when someone is swimming alone or without a lifeguard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4,000 people die each year by drowning. Adults can reduce the risk for injury by swimming in pairs and avoiding alcohol consumption when they swim. Teenagers should only swim with supervision.
The bottom line is pools are a responsibility. Drownings are 100 percent preventable. We must be vigilant all summer long to prevent drownings and it begins with keeping a safe and secure pool.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing those who have been injured in premises liability and swimming pool accidents. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
By now, many children are ready to trade in school days for pool days. Who can blame them? Summer in New England is the best time of year.
For parents, grandparents and caregivers, the transition to summer comes with responsibilities. Talk to each other and your children about the rules for pool safety now. Make your plan for watching children and keeping them safe.
This is the most important of all planning. Drowning can occur quickly and silently, within a matter of seconds. Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1-14, claiming the lives of three children every day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are others who survive but are left with severe brain damage and long-term disabilities.
Make sure your family is ready for the pool:
- Pool Fence and Lock. If you have a pool of your own, there are state requirements you must meet. First, your pool fence should be at least four feet tall and be self-closing and self-latching. It must open outward. Read more tips on keeping a safe pool fence.
- Pool Alarm. Another idea is a pool alarm that notifies you about activity near your pool. A pool alarm is required for pools that are surrounded by three walls of fencing and a house serves as the fourth.
- Layers of Protection. Think how you can slow down young children heading to your pool, beyond just your pool fence. You could add an extra lock, an extra fence or shrubs.
- Never Leave a Child Unattended In or Near Water. Supervising your child in the pool is your most important job this summer. Bring your cell phone to the pool in case of emergency, but set it aside and focus solely on your child. Buy a watch you can keep with you at the pool to check the time.
- Watch for Fatigue. Make sure your child does not become tired and vulnerable to drowning or injuries. Take a few minutes of rest or leave the pool for a while.
- Swim With Your Child. For young children, keep them in your arms and just let them get exposed to the water. As they get a few years older, you can practice “touch supervision” with them, where they are never more than an arm’s length away. Put a life jacket on young children who do not know how to swim.
- Swim Lessons. Sign your kids up for swim lessons so they are familiar with the water and learn the important life-saving skills they need to protect themselves. At the same time, sign yourself up for a CPR training course.
- Baby Pools. Empty and turn over baby pools after use. If you don’t, a young child could easily climb and fall in.
- Inspect Pool Area. If you have a home pool, glance around. Is the fence in good condition? Is there any glass out (glass bottles or even glass furniture) that could break and cut someone? Also look for broken equipment, such as pool ladders. Make it a practice to walk around the entire pool area at the end of each day and remove any hazards.
- Keep Away from Pool Drains. Keep children away from all pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments. Make sure your children are not wearing any loose jewelry, hair accessories or clothing that could get caught in a pool drain.
- Diving Boards and Slides. Diving boards and slides cause a large number of swimming pool injuries. Do not install them and consider uninstalling them to make your pool safer. If you have them, make sure you have the recommended level of water in your pool to support them. Put out traffic cones around them and tell kids they are only for certain times, such as when you have more adults at the pool.
- Friends’ Pools. If you drop your child off at a friend’s house, always ask if the family has a pool that is fenced off and look around at neighbors’ homes. Tell the parents who are supervising your child that you prefer the kids play in the sprinkler when you are not there.
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 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.
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.
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.
Many 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.
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.