As pool owners prepare for the swimming season, they may be unaware of a hazard that may exist in their pools. Suction entrapment occurs when a body is held against a pool or spa drain by the force of the pool’s suction or when an article of clothing, jewelry, hair or a limb is caught in a faulty drain.
One of the most important factors in keeping children and adults safe from entrapment incidents in pools and spas is to install anti-entrapment or safety drain cover hat is compliant with the Pool & Spa Safety Act.
The P& S Safety Act is one of the few federal laws applying to swimming pools, and is only enforced in public pools. The law was inspired by an entrapment incident that took the life of sevenyear- old Virginia Graeme Baker, the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker III.
In June 2002, Graeme became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a bad drain cover.
After her death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Mrs. Baker, her family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congresstowinsupportforalawtorequireanti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed.
The statute was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2007. The law mandates that drains in public and hotel pools and hot tubs be covered with larger, rounded covers that do not create suction, and that there is a backup mechanical system installed in drains to prevent suction in those pools that have a single main drain. The importance of replacing and protecting nonconformant drains cannot be overstated. Ask your pool and spa service professional if your pool’s drain cover meets the guidelines of the P& S Safety Act. Most people are aware that water and electricity don’t mix, but a surprising number of electricity-related accidents happen in swimming pools every year.
In September of 2016, 17-year-old Rachel Rosoff was electrocuted and drowned in a swimming pool. Authorities determined that a faulty ground wire in the pool’s electrical system didn’t trip a circuit breaker when the pump motor failed, allowing the water in the pool to become electrified.
According to Stephen Little, a licensed electrician and pool contractor in the area with more than 16 years of experience, pools fail electrical safety inspections frequently.
Little recently conducted 60 GFCI inspections in the Palm Springs, Calif. area, and all 60 failed the test. Two of the pools didn’t have ground fault circuit interrupters at all, and he was forced to cut off power to the pools.
Little said that most inspections fail due to an improper type of circuit breaker, allowing another appliance to be plugged into the same circuit as the pool. The GFCI used for pool lights should not have a plug attachment.
But there are other reasons that electrical safety inspections fail, and Little recommends that pool owners get inspections on their pools electrical work twice a year.
“Lights are required by National Electric Code to be grounded and bonded, and that is one of the primary things that should be inspected at least twice a year — that the grounding is intact, the bonding is intact and the GFI is present and working,” Little said. If the GFCI is working properly, it should shut the power off to the pool if there is a problem. Electrical inspections by qualified and licensed professionals can save lives. This is particularly important on older pools, where some of the wiring may have come loose or become corroded.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the biggest concerns are faulty underwater lighting; aging electrical wiring that hasn’t been inspected; or the use of electrical appliances that are not grounded.
Ask your pool and spa service professional to arange an electrical inspection today.