Pool and spa owners need to understand why accidents may cause drownings and serious injuries and take appropriate precautions. The duty to protect adults and children applies to public pool owners, like local municipalities, and private pool owners, like hotels and residential owners. The makers of drain systems, diving boards, and other pool products must ensure their products are safe.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced on June 7 they are seeking applications for their Pool Safely Grant Program (PSGP) for pools and spas. The grant program was created to help state and local governments reduce drowning accidents, such as drain entrapment incidents that can cause death and serious injuries.
The US CPSC will award up to $2 million in two-year grants to jurisdictions that qualify. The program is part of the agency’s national campaign to prevent drowning accidents which are a leading cause of fatalities among young children. The program is authorized through the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB Act) which was passed in 2007. To date, the CPSC has authorized close to $5 million for 24 grantees, including Loudon County in 2021.
Grantees who qualified for this new program will be able to use the funds for training, education, and the enforcement of pool safety rules – including anti-drowning education. To qualify, an applicant had to be a state, a local government, or a US Territory that has approved legislation that complies with the VGB Act.
The education programs encourage states and municipalities to use physical barriers such as a fence that fully surrounds the pool – and self-closing self-latching gates. Other pool safety suggestions can be viewed at PoolSafely.gov.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act forbids manufacturers, and distributors from making and selling drain covers that fail to meet specific standards. Generally, larger, rounder covers help to prevent suction. Further, pools and spas should have backup drain systems – many pools and spas just have a single drain system.
What are the dangers of drain entrapments?
Swimming pools and spas use drain entrapment systems to filter the water. These systems use strong suction forces to capture all the small debris and dirt to help keep the pool and spa clean. If the forces are too strong, however, they can trap arms, legs, and even people underwater. Victims may suffer damage to the limbs or traumatic amputation of a limb. In tragic cases, a loved one can die due to drain entrapment systems.
Pool and spa owners should regularly inspect and maintain their drain entrapment systems. Otherwise, they may be liable for any injuries experienced by anyone with permission to use the pool or spa. Additionally, the owners may also be liable if a child trespasses onto the property where the pool is located – if the child is then injured or drowns duet to the drain system – under the “attractive nuisance” doctrine of premises liability.
The manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of pools, spas, and drain systems also have a duty to ensure the integrity of their products. If defective drain systems cause injuries or fatalities, these companies can be held strictly liable for the harm they cause – or they may be liable based on a breach of warranty or negligence.
Young children are especially at risk because of their small size. Sadly, there are many cases of children drowning or nearly drowning in pools and spas.
What are the risks of pools and spas?
Drowning is not the only hazard posed by swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4,500 people yearly need to visit an emergency room because of exposure to pool chemicals. More than half of these patients were exposed to chemicals at residential pools.
Other common accidents that happen at swimming pools include:
- Diving board accidents. Defective diving boards can buckle. Diving boards that are not properly installed can cause a diver to suffer serious fall and twisting injuries. Manufacturers and maintenance companies may be held liable.
- Accidents when diving from a side of the pool. Divers should know how deep the pool is. There should be clear markings indicating where diving is prohibited. Divers who hit the pool with their head or neck can suffer head trauma or spinal cord injuries.
- Slip and fall accidents. Puddles and large pools of water should be cleaned up on a regular basis.
Pool owners may be liable if they don’t have lifeguards – especially at public pools and private pools where many people use the pool. Lifeguards should be trained and required to pay attention to the swimmers and not spend time eating or talking on their phones. Pool owners and staff should check for unclean water, obstacles around the pool, and debris in the pool.
Residential pool owners should have fences and use other security measures to keep trespassers, especially children, away from their pools.
What types of injuries result from pool accidents?
Serious pool and spa accidents can result in one or more of the following personal injuries:
- A traumatic brain injury, including loss of consciousness.
- Spinal cord damage, from diving accidents or slip and falls.
- Disembowelment injuries, from drain entrapment accidents.
- Multiple fractures, compound, and complex bone breaks, from slip and falls outside the pool or other accidents.
In tragic cases; a child, parent, spouse, or other close relative dies in a pool or spa accident. Our Richmond attorneys can bring a wrongful death action on your behalf.
What are the pool regulations in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Health inspects swimming pools located at hotels, campgrounds, water parks and theme parks, as well as some public pools. This includes inspecting the design and construction. Some of the many things the state health department inspects (that private owners should inspect too) include:
- Usage of approved water sources only
- Cleanliness of the pool and surrounding areas
- The lighting around the pool
- Depth markings
- The cleanliness of the filters
- The pH levels and “chlorine residuals”
- Whether the pool is gated
- The filter room
- The presence of lifeguards or clear “No Lifeguard” signs
- The presence of life-saving equipment
At Phelan Petty, we understand the federal, state, and local rules that regulate pools and spas in Richmond. Our lawyers demand compensation for all your injuries and those of your child including economic damages and personal damages. We file wrongful death claims when a family member tragically dies in a pool or spa accident. To discuss your rights with a respected Richmond personal injury lawyer, call us at 804-980-7100 or use our contact form to make an appointment.