Pool Guests Swim with Caution

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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Trampolines, Inflatable Slides Among Dangers At Swimming Pool


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.


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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Drownings Claim 90 Children in U.S. Since Memorial Day

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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Swimming Pool Accidents Can Be Avoided By Owners’ Safety Steps

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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Defective Pool Slide Kills Woman in Andover, Mass.

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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Study: One Child Dies in Portable Pools Every Five Days

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 and Prevention.

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.

Read more about the study published in Pediatrics. Read More

One Million Pool Drain Covers Recalled As Summer Begins

pooldrain.jpgOne million defective pool and spa drain covers are being recalled because they are incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water and pose a possible entrapment hazard.

No injuries have been reported. The safety drain covers are being voluntarily recalled by eight manufacturers and are not sold directly to consumers.

There are 6.2 million residential and public inground pools and inground spas in the United States and the pool drain cover recall affects fewer than 5 percent, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But the recall comes just a few weeks before schools in Massachusetts finish for the summer and it is unclear how many closures it may force among the state’s public swimming pools.

The federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act took effect December 19, 2008, tightening safety standards for drain covers sold to consumers and public pool operators. The recalled drain covers were installed after that, between December 19, 2008 and April 2011.

The new legislation has been credited with reducing fatal drownings and pool accidents caused by unsafe suctions. From 1999 to 2008, 12 people were killed in pool and spa entrapments and 72 suffered injuries, according to the CPSC. In 2009 and 2010, there were no deaths and 10 pool entrapment injuries reported.

The affected drain covers were sold through independent distributors to pool and spa builders and installers. The CPSC is advising consumers to contact their pool builder or pool service provider. Consumers can also visit the Drain Cover Recall web page maintained by The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals or call the association at 866-478-3521.

The manufacturers and pool service professionals will replace or retrofit the defective pool drain covers at no charge to consumers.

Consumers are advised not to use pools with the defective drain covers and not to attempt to replace the drain covers themselves.

The manufacturers involved in the pool drain cover recall are A&A Manufacturing of Phoenix, Arizona; AquaStar Pool Products Inc of San Diego; California, Color Match Pool Fittings of Surprise, Arizona; Custom Molded Products of Tyrone, Georgia; Hayward Pool Products of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Pentair Water Pool and Spa of Sanford, North Carolina; Rising Dragon USA, of E. Sweetwater, Tennessee and Waterway Plastics of Oxnard, California.

For more information on the recall, click here.
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Shedding an Important Light on Pool Safety

A recent Boston Globe editorial sheds an important light on how to prevent pool drownings.

The editorial points out that many states already have strong pool safety laws. For example, Massachusetts and nine other states have laws requiring fencing around pools. Safety groups also recommend pool gates be self-closing, self-latching and equipped with an alarm. Angelo Puppolo Jr., a state representative from Springfield, has further proposed mandating motion-detecting pool alarms and other safety measures.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission calls these steps, “layers of protection” and it’s an important concept to think about incorporating into your backyard pool – regardless of whether you have children.

The Boston Globe editorial, however, points out pool safety goes beyond the “layers of protection” strategy. Here’s a startling statistic shared in the editorial: nine out of 10 children who drown are being supervised by a parent or caregiver at the time.

This means we need to rethink how we supervise children in the pool. Listening while a child plays in the pool may not be enough. Drowning children are struggling to breathe, unable to call for help. Rather than splash, children will sink to the bottom of the pool.

When with a group of adults, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends designating someone the “pool watcher.” But with more than one child, the more eyes the better.

Read the Boston Globe editorial, “Pool Safety: Eyes on Kids at All Times,” Aug. 4, 2010

Read another Boston Globe article, “Drownings Put Focus on Pool Safety,” Aug. 7, 2010
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Be Safe in Massachusetts Pools This Summer

The warm weather is here and that means many Massachusetts residents can be found poolside. The pool is a fun spot for all ages, but it also poses safety risks. These risks can be reduced by the use of good judgment and common sense.

We want you and your loved ones to be safe. Sadly, each year, more than 300 children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools – often pools belonging to their own family. More than 2,000 children the same age are treated in hospital emergency rooms for pool-related injuries.

Here are common sense safety tips to help keep your family safe around the swimming pool:

  • Learn CPR and make sure babysitters and older siblings have CPR training.
  • Do not allow children to swim without supervision, even if they have attended swimming lessons.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Install a fence or barrier around your pool. The fence should be at least 4 feet high and have a self-closing, self-latching gate.
  • If the fence is chain link, then no part of the diamond-shaped opening should be larger than 1-3/4 inches.
  • Install a pool alarm to alert an adult when someone enters the pool area unauthorized. A key pad switch alarm allows adults to pass through without setting off the alarm.
  • Keep rescue equipment and a phone with emergency numbers by the pool.
  • If there are multiple adults at the pool, designate one person the pool-watcher to avoid distractions.
  • Ladders leading from the pool to the ground or to a pool deck should be locked or removed when the pool is out of use.
  • Remove toys that may attract children from in and around the pool when they are not in use.

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Thinking Pool Safety Saves Lives

Summer is here and that means it is time to enjoy the pool – and think safety. Each year, thousands of children are injured in the pool and hundreds lose their lives in drowning incidents. So while we want you to enjoy your pool this summer, we ask you to commit to protecting your children and family.

Keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Supervise children at all times. If you’re in a group, it’s easy to get distracted so consider designating someone a “pool watcher.”
  • Learn how to swim and teach your children.
  • Get CPR training.
  • Keep a phone with you at the pool.
  • Make sure you have proper rescue equipment and keep it nearby.
  • Keep your pool inside a fence at least four-feet tall and secure it with a durable lock when not in use.
  • Remember small children can drown in kiddie pools and watch them accordingly.
  • Check your pool’s drains. Suction from a pool’s drain can be powerful enough to trap both children and adults underwater. Do not use any pool or spa with broken or missing drain covers. At community pools, ask the operator if the pool complies with the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

Why it’s important:

  • Pools were involved in the overwhelming majority of emergency room visits for drownings and submersion injuries from 2006 to 2008 across the country. They accounted for the majority of reported drowning fatalities from 2004 to 2006.
  • From 2006 to 2008, there were on average 3,100 pool and spa related emergency department visits nationwide involving drowning injuries.
  • Children ages one and two accounted for 62 percent of drowning injuries from 2006 to 2008 nationwide.

For more information on pool safety, visit www.poolsafety.gov.

The statistics from this article come from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and is available here.

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