Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to submersion in residential swimming pools. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has estimated that each year, about 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools. Hospital emergency-room treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 who were submerged in residential pools. The CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, both fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida -- states in which home swimming pools are very popular and used during much of the year.
- In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under the age of 5.
- Seventy-five percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning accidents were between 1 and 3 years old.
- Boys between 1 and 3 were the most likely victims of fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions in residential swimming pools.
- Most of the victims were in the presence of one or both parents when the swimming pool accident occurred.
- Nearly half of the child victims were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred. In addition, 23% of the accident victims were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard.
- This means that 69% of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water.
- Sixty-five percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family, and 33% of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends.
- Fewer than 2% of the pool accidents were the result of children trespassing on property where they didn’t live or belong.
- Seventy-seven percent of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes or less when they were found in the pool, drowned or submerged.
Why the Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines Were Developed
How to Prevent a Child from Getting OVER a Pool Barrier
A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting OVER, UNDER or THROUGH, and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present.
The Swimming Pool-Barrier Guidelines
Above-ground pools should have barriers. The pool structure itself can sometimes serves as a barrier, or a barrier can be mounted on top of the pool structure. Then, there are two possible ways to prevent young children from climbing up into an above-ground pool. The steps or ladder can be designed to be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps or ladder can be surrounded by a barrier, such as those described above. For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the measurement is done on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool.
If an above-ground pool has a barrier on the top of the pool, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches. Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of openings in a barrier, and by using self-closing and self-latching gates.
To prevent a young child from getting through a fence or other barrier, all openings should be small enough so that a 4-inch diameter sphere cannot pass through. This size is based on the head- breadth and chest-depth of a young child.
There are two kinds of gates which might be found on a residential property. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier.
Other gates should be equipped with self-latching devices. The self-latching devices should be installed as described for pedestrian gates.
How to Prevent a Child from Getting UNDER or THROUGH a Pool Barrier
When a pool is located completely within a house, the walls that surround the pool should be equipped to serve as swimming pool safety barriers. Measures recommended above where a house wall serves as part of a safety barrier also apply for all the walls surrounding an indoor pool.
Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines
- The release mechanism should be located on the pool-side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate.
- The gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2-inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.
9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following should apply:
- All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall should be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door and its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm should sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds within seven seconds after the door is opened. The alarm should have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dBA at 10 feet, and the sound of the alarm should be distinctive from other household sounds, such as smoke alarms, telephones and doorbells. The alarm should automatically re-set under all conditions. The alarm should be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to temporarily de-activate the alarm for a single opening of the door from either direction. Such de-activation should last for no more than 15 seconds. The de-activation touch pads or switches should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door.
- The pool should be equipped with a power safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91.
- Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, are acceptable as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by the above.
- The ladder to the pool or steps should be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access.
- The ladder or steps should be surrounded by a barrier. When the ladder or steps are secured, locked, or removed, any opening created should not allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
These swimming pool safety guidelines are intended to provide a means of protection against potential drownings of children under 5 years of age by restricting access to residential swimming pools, spas and hot tubs.
A portable spa with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91 should be exempt from the guidelines presented here. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and non-portable spas with safety covers should not be exempt from these provisions.