Don’t Risk a Pool Slip! Review These 5 Areas.
To swim or not to swim? It really is not a question. People in the United States love to take to the water. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, swimming is the fourth most-popular sport or activity in the United States. In fact, people will be swimming more than 300 million times in pools and other swimming areas this year alone. When talking pools specifically, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) reported in November 2017 that there are 10.4 million residential and 309,000 public swimming pools alone in the United States that will be used this year. For good reason too. Swimming has been said to increase mental and physical health, lower risk for chronic diseases, joint and muscle pain, and increase overall quality of life- even decreasing disability in old age due to continued activity. Yes, swimming pools offer a whole lot of fun and relaxation, but have underlying potential danger to be cautious of.
Pool safety is not a new topic, but around this time of year it is important to remind ourselves about the risks surrounding the water and how to protect our pool patrons and ourselves from potential injury or drowning. Understanding why a continual reminder of pool safety is important just takes looking at drowning statistics. Even with swimming and safety classes available, many people drown every year. Data has shown that about 1.2 million people around the world die of drowning every year and from that more than 50% are children. Of course, this number does not include those who may have experienced the drowning process, but been rescued or reached safety on their own. Pool drownings and injury certainly do not always occur because of a slip or fall, but being able to prevent slipping around the pool can definitely help to increase safety and reduce the potential risk of harm to those using or around the swimming pool.
Many state and building requirements, campaigns, and even legislation has been passed to provide safer pool environments and raise awareness about pool and spa safety. Whether you are a homeowner or building owner that holds a pool on site, it is your responsibility to make certain at minimum that your pool or spa meet the state and local building code requirements. This is to ensure it is not a danger to those using it or a high-risk liability for yourself. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), also launched the Pool Safety campaign in 2010 to raise awareness of pool and spa safety, as mandated by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) as a voluntary guidance document based on science and best practices that can help local and state authorities and the aquatics sector make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer to reduce the risks for pool-related outbreaks, drownings, and injuries.
With all these resources available it is easy to be overwhelmed as a pool owner. What can you start to review immediately to reduce the risk of potential slips, trips, and falls to prevent injury or drowning accidents? Paying special attention to these five common slip and fall problem areas in and around the pool is a great place to start before summer approaches.
- Pool Decks: Slipping on pool decks is so common, we made it #1 on our list to review. From running and roughhousing to simply taking a wrong step, the pool deck is an unforgiving place to slip and fall. Often made of concrete, and combined with water or in some cases algae, it can create immediate danger by turning into an unwanted “slip-n-slide”. Tips to prevent pool slips on the deck include:
- Review your horizontal depth markers on the pool deck. They should be slip resistant to be in accordance with the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code.
- If your pool is non-residential, it is important to note that OSHA General Industry Safety Standards 1910.22 require floors to be clean and dry. Proposed regulations require floor surfaces to be free of recognized hazards and if the surface cannot be maintained free of hazards such as water, there should be a means to minimize exposure. Regular inspection and maintenance should keep the surfaces in safe condition.
- Put proper safety signs in place and ensure all visitors are aware of your pool rules. Pushing others into the pool, running, and roughhousing are all big no-no’s. These may seem like common sense, but to younger children (and even some adults), these rules should be reiterated or clearly posted around the pool area. Also placing warning signs to remind pool go-ers of commonly wet areas or potential tripping hazards is helpful.
- Make sure the pool deck is slip-resistant at minimum within 4 feet of the pool according to 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code. This non-slip pool material should be checked yearly to assure it is still working properly.
- Diving Boards and Slide Platforms: Many severe injuries result from slipping on diving boards or slide platforms because they are inevitably wet. In order to prevent an accidental diving board slip, the 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code states that diving boards must have slip resistant walking equipment. If steps are needed to access the diving board or slide, then it is required that the steps are self-draining, with corrosion resistant stairs and ladders, and with slip resistant stair treads. Two grab rails or two handrails on the ladders going up to the diving board or slide are also required in order to prevent a potential slip or fall.
- Stairs, Recessed Steps, and Ladder Treads: When not treated properly or continually reviewed, these areas can pose a serious threat to pool safety. 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code states several requirements to comply by that will help reduce the risk of pool slips including:
- Steps and ladders should be at least three inches wide and the ladder should have handrails on both sides small enough for a child to grasp. There should be a ladder at both ends of the pool. The Life Safety Code requires handrails on each side of new stairs and ramps with a slope of 1:15 or greater.
- Any pool stair tread or pool ladder tread needs to have a slip resistant surface and it is recommended to check this surface annually to ensure it is still working properly. Treads may have a maximum slope of 1/4 inch per foot in order to shed water.
- Zero Entry/Beach Entry: These types of entries although great for smaller children to enjoy splashing around in and providing the perfect lounging space due to their shallow water, also provide the perfect environment for accidental pool slips. Many people see them as a way to run into the pool since there are no stairs to stop them like traditional pool entrances, which can be extremely dangerous. It is recommended that a soft fall surface be installed and required that these entry points be made of slip-resistant materials. These non-slip pool adhesives should be checked regularly for quality assurance due to them constantly being submerged, especially before opening the pool each season. Consider putting a no running sign at the entry point also.
- Underwater Benches and Underwater Ledges: Last, but not least, if your pool contains any underwater seating or ledges it is imperative to ensure they have a non-slip material on them. Although benches are for seating, it is common for young children to stand on them or for anyone to easily slip on these areas due to them being underwater. It is also required that these areas have a slip-resistant surface and underwater benches and seats should never been used to enter or exit the pool, as the risk of a slip or fall greatly increases.
Humans are accident prone, it’s a fact of life. United States Consumer Product and Safety Commission injury statistics indicate that 39,500 people annually will seek hospital emergency room care for injuries involving below-ground pools; about 10,000 will need treatment for injuries related to above-ground pools. With mistakes bound to occur, all we can do is limit the dangers and hazards around the pool to significantly prevent pool injuries due to slips, trips, and falls. Checking the pool and surrounding areas periodically to ensure tripping hazards are removed, non-slip materials and stair treads are installed and/or not worn out and handrails, ladders, slides, and diving equipment are secured is a great way to preventing potential pool injuries. Additionally, teaching our children what to do in case an emergency does occur, having a plan for medical care, and the addition of an alarm bell to your pool area to summon help are great ideas as a responsible pool owner.