There are few things as refreshing as a dip into a cool swimming pool on a hot Oklahoma summer day. Thousands of Oklahoma City and Tulsa children spends hours during the hot summer months playing in public pools, apartment complex pools, private pools and water parks. A safe and well maintained swimming pool can provide hours of fun and entertainment for your friends and family. Unfortunately, the luxury of a pool can quickly become a hazard if it is not maintained correctly. Sadly, not all pools are properly maintained. Each year, over 1,000 children (a quarter of which are under the age of 5) die in swimming related accidents. Another 5,000 others are hospitalized. Another 200 children die in spas and whirlpools.
Oklahoma swimming pool accidents are all too common. The reality is that children are drawn to water and do not realize the terrible danger pools can pose. Many times children are over confident because they know how to swim. Just because a child knows how to swim does not mean they are safe. Close supervision of young children is vital whether you are at a home pool, resort pool, public pool or apartment complex pool. Children should be supervised every second while in and around the pool. Unfortunately that does not always happen and when it doesn’t, it is important that the pool owners have taken proper precautions to protect the swimmers.
Common Causes of Oklahoma Swimming Pool Accidents
- Failure to maintain self-latching and closing gates that keep young children from entering pool area.
Although all swimming pools must be compliant with the local building code requirements, the unfortunate reality is that many are not across Oklahoma. Swimming pool injuries are often caused by residential homes that lack a safety fences which should be at least 4 feet high and contain a self-closing and self-latching gate. That is simply inexcusable! Some pools that do have gates, have pool furniture so close to the gate that children can use it to climb up and unlatch the gate by themselves. Such easy access often leads to disaster.
- Failure to maintain pool logs as required by state laws.
- Vacuum drains that do not have proper covers can cause serious or fatal results.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which went into effect in December of 2008, requires all public pool owners to install a drain cover that complies with standards set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In addition, if the pool has a single main drain (other than an unblockable drain), the operator must either disable the drain or install a second anti-entrapment device or system. This can take the form of an automatic shut-off system, gravity drainage system, Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) or suction-limiting vent system. Apartment complex owners that fail to meet these new standards open themselves up to liability if a child is injured or drowns in the apartment’s pool.
- Lack of safety equipment on hand such as shepard hooks and ring buoys with throw ropes.
Shepard’s hooks and safety equipment like throw ropes and buoys are essential life saving equipment that may be used to rescue swimmers who need help. Failure to have such items available is comparable to a fire truck lacking a hose. Such equipment is imperative.
- Lack of flotation safety lines separating deep and shallow areas of pool.
- Unclear depth markers that prevent swimmers from knowing what the depth of the pool is.
Poorly marked depth zones, unsafe diving boards and improperly supervised swimming areas can pose a significant risk. Spinal cord injury, nonfatal drowning induced brain damage and death are all possible if proper safety measures are not followed. Proper signage should be present to notify all participants of the pool depth. If pool depth is not noted, severe head and neck injury could result. A pool owner may be negligent if he or she fails to post adequate warnings regarding water depth.
- Inattentive and untrained Life Guards.
Keeping a close eye on your children in large, crowded pools can be very challenging. As a result, water parks are required to hire and properly train a minimum number of lifeguards and other personnel to keep children safe while using the park’s facilities. When lifeguards are not properly trained or the park is not adequately staffed, the park can and should be held legally liable.
- Defective pool equipment such as filters and pool pumps that affect water clarity.
Water clarity is critical. For a pool to be in compliance with local laws, you MUST be able to clearly see the drain of the pool in the deepest part. Water clarity is essential for rescue efforts of children submerged and in need of help. When a pool owner allows that pool to become murky over time, a drowning accident can occur. This is because it is difficult to see a child or adult on the bottom of the pool in murky water.
- Lack of pool ladders that allow easy exit from pools.
Swimmers get tired, especially young ones. Many do not lack the upper body strength to pull themselves up and out of the water even if they are able to reach it to the side. Easily accessible pool ladders are critical to ensure property safety precautions.
- Emergency phone near pool not working or non-existent.
Nobody wants an accident to occur. But when ones does happen, having a working telephone available to call for emergency services is critical. When a swimmer has been underwater every second counts! Having to take the time to retrieve a phone from a remote location so that 911 can be called is negligence.
- Overcrowded pools with too many people in the pool at one time.
Even a well trained lifeguard can only watch so many people at once. An overcrowded pool is a receipt for disaster.
- Defective and inadequate pool lights.
Many times the swimming party goes into the evening hours. When that occurs, it is critical that adequate pool lighting is present. Failure to have proper lighting can lead to disaster.
Swimming Pool Safety Facts
The swimming pool statistics below are provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC):
- A drowning can occur in only 2 inches of water
- Near drownings can cause severe brain damage, memory problems and learning disorders.
- Near drownings can cause death at a later time due to complications of the chemistry in the lungs.
- About 350 children under the age of 5 drown in pools each year.
- Another 2,600 are treated in hospitals for near-drowning incidents.
- Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of death after auto accidents for children under the age of 5.
- Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of death for all children between the ages of 1 and 14.
- A majority of drowning accidents occur in backyard pools.
- In 2004 males accounted for 78% of accident fatal drownings.
- Of all the children under the age of 5, 26% of the annual deaths are the cause of accidental drownings.
- For those with seizure disorders, drowning is the number 1 cause of death. Most deaths occur in bathtubs.
- Alcohol is involved in 25% to 50% of teenage and adult fatal drowning accidents.
- Remember to use extreme caution when participating in any type of water recreation whether you are swimming laps in your backyard, or out boating on a lake.
If you or a loved one is a victim of a poolside or other aquatic accident, it may be important to contact a lawyer who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit. Please do not hesitate to email or contact McIntyre Law for a qualified swimming pool accident attorney in Oklahoma. We are here to help.