Swimming pools have always been a favorite source of summer fun, whether you’re the type to splash around in the shallow end with a beach ball or spend hours lounging in a raft to cool off after work. They’re so popular, in fact, that residential in-ground and above-ground pools now number more than 4 million in the U.S, according to the National Swimming Pool Institute.
Unfortunately, these at-home oases often lead to more serious injuries than swimmers ear and sunburn – almost 40,000 people are sent to the hospital emergency room annually in accidents associated with swimming pools. That translates into millions of dollars in medical bills and insurance claims for homeowners every year.
If you have a pool at home, take a few safety measures this summer to help prevent injuries and liability claims, and help make sure your summer fun in the sun doesn’t take a dip into your bank account.
Install a fence around the perimeter of the pool
A secure, self-closing and self-latching fence is the best way to help deter intruders, neighborhood kids or other unwanted guests from using your pool without your consent. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a height of 6 feet around all sides of the pool. Even if someone is injured while using the pool without your knowledge (or even while you’re away from home) – if it happens in your pool, you could be held legally liable for the resulting damage and/or medical bills. Investing in a sturdy barrier around your pool significantly helps reduce your liability risks and could end up saving you thousands of dollars in insurance claims.
Always supervise children and guests
Establish and enforce a consistent set of rules and safety guidelines. Here are a few suggestions from the American Red Cross:
- No running. A large number of severe injuries are caused by children falling on wet or slippery surfaces around the pool, including diving boards and ladders.
- No swimming without adult supervision. Most accidental drownings and other injuries occur when children gain access to the pool unsupervised or when an adult supervisor is distracted.
- No jumping or diving in the shallow end. Misjudging the depth of the water is another major cause of serious swimming-related injuries. Alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to these accidents, so be sure to limit the number of drinks available for guests if they’re swimming.
- No breath-holding contests. According to the National Safety Council, 600 children and adults drown annually in swimming pools – silly contests such as these are invitations for dangerous accidents.
- No playing with drains and suction fittings. A number of injuries can also be attributed to the pool itself and misuse of its equipment and accessories.
Keep rescue devices close at hand
The American Red Cross urges adults to always remain within arm’s length of small children in a pool, but if an accident were to occur and you’re farther away, you should always have proper reaching and throwing equipment, such as life hooks, rescue poles and flotation devices available. You also should always have a cell phone handy in case you have to call for emergency help, as well as a first aid kit to deal with minor injuries.
Clean up toys when you’re not using them
Unattended toys lying around the pool area can attract unsupervised children from the neighborhood and other unwanted guests. Remember, even if you’re not there, you could be held legally liable for any medical bills and other expenses attributable to injuries in your pool. Put away rafts, inner tubes, beach balls, water guns and any other pool toys, and store them inside or in a safe place whenever they’re not in use.