Nearly every year, electric shock drownings occur across the country in swimming pools, whether they are indoors or outdoors, inground or aboveground, including storable pools. Rules in the National Electric Code cover pools, spas, and hot tubs, to prevent electric shock drownings from occurring.
There are many things you, as a pool service technician, can tell your customers concerning maintaining their pools’ electrical safety.
Get Equipment Checked
The National Fire Protection Association says that summer is the time of year to have swimming pool equipment, hot tubs, and spas inspected and then adequately maintained to ensure that lifesaving measures such as ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection is installed and that all grounding and bonding systems are functioning correctly. Swimmers who use a neighborhood or community pool should talk to the homeowner, association representative, or pool manager to be sure they do regular inspections.
They also advise:
• If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub, or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations.
• Outdoor receptacles must have covers that keep them dry even when appliances are plugged into them.
• Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are special devices designed to protect against electric shock and electrocution. They are required for most pool, spa, or hot tub equipment. They may be in the form of an outlet or a circuit breaker. Test the GFCIs monthly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Electrical appliances, equipment, and cords should be kept at least 6 feet away from the water. When possible, use battery operated appliances and equipment, such as televisions, radios, and stereos.
• Avoid handling electrical devices when you are wet.
• Make sure that any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If unsure, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.
• Do not swim during a thunderstorm.
• Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa, or hot tub electrically safe.
• Have a qualified electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
Also, when possible, install plastic ladders in pools instead of metal ones.
The risks of electric shock drowning are clear. Electrical inspectors can help mitigate those risks, guided by current regulatory requirements.
Rescuing someone experiencing electric shock drowning When an electrical hazard exists in a swimming pool, there are some steps that swimmers can take to mitigate some of the risks.
For example, if swimmers begin to feel a tingling sensation, they should stop swimming in their current direction immediately and move into a direction where they do not feel the tingling sensation any more. They should move away from the likely sources of the current such as underwater lights, as well as all other metals such as inwater metal ladders or other metal components. Moving away from high electric field regions will reduce the chance of injury or death.
They should exit the pool as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails, as touching metal may increase the risk of shock.
Extreme caution is needed when rescuing someone who is experiencing electric shock, lest the rescuer become a victim. The following should be kept in mind in such an emergency: No one should enter the water until the source of in-water electricity has been shut off.
Use rescue hooks with fiberglass or plastic handles. Never use rescue hooks with metal handles or the rescuer may become electrocuted.
In your role as a pool service professional, you are in the unique position to communicate the risks to pool owners, provide safety tips, and help to ensure public safety around pools.