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Beware of electrical work on pools

By Marcelle Dibrell

Most of us know that it’s a really bad idea to mix electricity and water. That’s why it is so important to take special precautions in the pool area.

Because while it is true that swimming pool electrocutions are a rare occurrence, that fact is of little comfort to the families whose lives have been changed by it.

Remember Calder Sloane, the 7-yearold boy who was electrocuted by a faulty pool light?

Following their son’s tragic death, the Sloan family filed a lawsuit against the light manufacturer, the pool maintenance company, an electrical company that did work on the home, and the home inspector.

The boy’s devastated father continues to fight for stronger electrical legislation in the state of Florida.

This year there was another electrical incident that shocked three people including an 8-year-old boy in a Maine campground swimming pool. Although they recovered, they were hospitalized for their injuries.

Electrical incidents at pools and spas are rare – true – but the fact is that nearly every year, there are reports of electrocutions, electroshock drowning incidents, or shock injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that they are aware of 33 deaths and a total of 47 incidents related to electricity in swimming pools and spas from 2002 to 2018.

Some of these accidents occurred due to hazardous pool equipment that was either malfunctioning or improperly installed in the first place.

Experts say that the greatest risk of electrical accidents comes from older pool lights.

For that reason, they recommend upgrading old pool lighting to lighting that adheres to modern safety standards.

They also recommend getting older pools’ electrical components inspected periodically, especially if the history of the pool is unknown. That’s because those who do perform electrical inspections for pools and spas encounter code violations in nearly all of the pools that they visit.

According to Patrick Jackson, Plumbing and Electrical Division Manager for Alan Smith Pool Plastering, Inc., located in Orange, CA, most residential pools have electrical hazards and violations.

Some of these pools are regularly maintained by service technicians. Most of them likely had their equipment installed by service technicians.

Many of the replacement equipment installations Jackson sees are not electrically bonded. Many are lacking GFCI protection. It’s not uncommon for him to find that the water has a little stray current.

Jackson says most of the problems he sees happen when an old piece of equipment is replaced.

There are plenty of pool projects that are considered do-it-yourself work, but electrical work is not one of them. Electrical repairs should be performed by a qualified and licensed professional. As a pool service technician, it is important to know that most jurisdictions require that electrical repair work be done by a licensed electrician. Check with local codes to determine what you are allowed to do. For complete electrical safety requirements, obtain the copy of the National Electric Code (NEC)- that is referenced by your local authority.

This special edition of Service Industry News provides a general discussion on basic electrical theory, circuits, and safety.

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