Using common sense and caution can keep pool cleaners and pool users safe from harm. Pools and hot tubs are not usually considered dangerous, but the lack of proper precaution and safety products can create dangerous conditions for the pool owner and any swimmers. Drowning is silent and can happen to people of all ages, regardless of swimming ability. Spinal injuries can occur from improper diving. Contact with hazardous chemicals can lead to hospitalisation or death.
Drowning and Accident Prevention
Statistics from pool professionals and medical personnel show that the best ways to prevent drowning and swimming accidents include adult supervision, awareness and safety training for young children, and not drinking alcohol anywhere near the pool. Most drownings occur to children under 5 years of age who are unsupervised, cannot swim well, and fall into a pool or pool cover with water on top. Remember that toddlers are prone to wander off from parental supervision. This is why it is absolutely imperative that back doors and fences are locked when there are children around. Contrary to popular belief, drowning does not come with screams and wild splashing; drowning is silent.
Statistically, the second largest number of accidental injuries occurs to teenagers and young adults. Drinking alcohol is likely to raise recklessness and diminish common sense. It may seem like a good idea to dive into a pool in a shallow area, or from a location not intended for diving, like the roof of the house, but serious and permanent spinal cord injury can occur as a result of diving accidents. Alcohol and hot tubs are also a potentially lethal combination; the combination of hot water and the alcohol can cause individuals to fall asleep and drown in only a few feet of water. There are other hazards, like water on top of solid pool covers.
Toddlers and animals can drown in a few millilitres of water on top of a solid pool cover. Cover pumps are an absolute necessity and must be used, or you can replace your solid pool cover with a mesh safety cover. Solar blankets or solid covers must be completely removed before entering the water. Entrapment drownings are caused by the suction of a single main drain on long hair, small body parts and loose clothing items. New standards require dual main drains or a safety switch to prevent main drain entrapment.
More Drowning Prevention Tips
There is NO substitute for adequate adult supervision. Even a strong swimmer can drown if they bump their head, become entrapped or experience a medical incident like a seizure or cardiac arrest.
Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) is caused by hyperventilating and holding breath under water and is now recognised as a distinct danger to swimmers and divers. As we have become more informed about the dangers of swimming pools, we now know that the kind of ‘breath holding’ games which once seemed like fun are actually very dangerous. Pool users should be instructed to not play these games, attempt to swim the length of the pool without breathing, and to never take a deep breath before going underwater.
Pools and hot tubs are attractive to children. There must be a permanent barrier to entry into the pool or hot tub area. It is strongly recommended that you have a 3- or 4-sided fence that is non-climbable and has self-closing, self-latching mechanisms on the gate. The gate should be locked, at all times, when the pool is not in use. Do not place chairs or tables near a fence which would enable a child to climb over.
In addition to a good fence around the pool, professionals promote an idea called ‘Layers of Protection’; this is the combination of many safety features working together to form several ‘layers’ of safety protection around a swimming pool, hot tub or spa. A simple fence, no matter how strong, just won’t be sufficient to protect the pool when it is not under supervision. Door exit alarms, infrared detectors or security cameras, as well as pool alarms, child alarms, or pool safety covers will all help to collectively prevent accidents. Ensure that the pool is in clear view from the house, and there are no obstructions like plants, gazebos, solid fences, or darkness. This is not so that you can watch your swimmers from the house (as you must always be supervising them from the pool area), but rather to ensure that the pool is not being used when it is not supposed to be.
Signs about the pool, with “pool rules” are a good idea, but remember to always instruct new users of your pool about what is allowed and what is not; remember that young children may not be able to read and should be reminded of the rules often.
Helping a drowning person can also be dangerous for the rescuer; if the person drowning starts pulling the rescuer under water, or holds them around the neck, cutting off their air supply, both the rescuer and the victim can drown. Having rescue equipment on hand can help prevent this. Ring buoys & reaching poles with life hooks should be at the ready, as well as first aid kits. Always offer a drowning person a ring or pole to hold on to, rather than holding onto the rescuer’s body. If there is no rescue equipment nearby, offer your non-dominant arm to the victim; this will ensure that you are still able to swim and get both of you to the edge or steps of the pool.
Learn CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation).
If you use a pool cover, follow all instructions for their safe installation, use and maintenance. Always remove a cover completely before using the pool or hot tub, and do not let standing water remain on the top; instead, remove it with a cover pump.
Do not allow children to play near a pool. Games and bike riding can result in someone bumping their head and falling in.
Have your children start swimming lessons at an early age. Experts now suggest that lessons can begin as early as 1 year of age and should continue for at least 5 years.
Chemical Use and Storage Safety
It is imperative that you treat the transportation, use, and storage of pool chemicals with extreme caution. Thousands of pool owners and cleaners are taken to hospital every year with trauma to their skin, eyes and lungs caused by chemical accidents or misuse. The law requires every pool chemical to have its own MSDS sheet. The label on the chemical has instructions for use, restricted uses and First Aid, but the information on the MSDS sheet goes beyond what can be simplified and easily fit onto the label of a container.
MSDS sheets show the exact, specific chemical formulations and concentrations, along with spill clean-up procedures and First Aid. They also provide exact instructions on the use and potential dangers and hazards of using a particular chemical.
If the Fire Department is called, they will ask for the MSDS sheets. Pool stores and any seller of pool chemicals are required to have these sheets, for an annual inspection by the Fire Marshall. Your pool supplier may have copies available for their customers’ use; however, if your dealer does not have them available, they can be printed from the chemical manufacturer’s website. Make sure they are on hand for use by you or emergency services.
Transporting Pool Chemicals Safely
Always keep your car/truck clean and organised.
Separate incompatible chemicals; we recommend distributing them between the front seat, back seat and boot.
Do not purchase or carry any damaged containers.
Make sure that your goods are tightly secured and won’t move around.
Ask your pool equipment supplier for MSDS sheets, for your information and HAZMAT personnel in case of an accident.
Storing Pool Chemicals Safely
Keep chemicals away from and out of the reach of children.
Store chemicals in a cool, dry and well ventilated area with a locked entry. Do not store them any place where they might get exposed to sun and rain.
Do not stack chemical containers on top of one another.
Keep pool and hot tub chemicals separate from each other and from other home chemicals. Violent and dangerous reactions such as explosion, fire, or lethal gas production can occur when pool chemicals come into contact each other. Never mix any chemicals together.
Do not store chemicals on shelves where they may fall during storms or other acts of nature.
Replace lids and caps firmly and immediately after opening.
Store liquid chemicals in a plastic container or box on a bottom shelf.
Use old chemicals until they are finished, then rotate stock with the FIFO principle (first in, first out).
Keep your storage area and scoops clean; dust or leaf particles can lead to violent reactions.
Post MSDS sheets as well as emergency information and phone numbers nearby.
Using Pool Chemicals Safely
Follow label directions carefully. Read the instructions! If the label is faded or torn, don’t guess what it is. Return it to your dealer.
Add the chemicals to the pool water and not the other way around. Feeders are available for each specific type of chemical. Chemicals should only be added to the pool through specific feeders. Adding chemicals directly to the skimmer will make the concentration too strong and potentially damage pool equipment or swimmers. If the instructions suggest diluting with water first, get a large, clean bucket with water in it, then add the chemicals to the water in the bucket.
Wear proper safety gear when handling chemicals. This includes gloves and an apron and may include a breathing respirator (to prevent inhalation of fumes) and a face shield.
Never mix chemicals! Open and use only one chemical at a time. Accidental mixing can be prevented by safe storage and careful handling. Pool chemicals can mix with each other if you use the same bucket and scoop for different chemicals, even if you wash them thoroughly. You should have a clean bucket and scoop designated only for that chemical.
Dispose of waste and spills safely and properly. Immediately clean up any, and all, chemical spills. Contact the fire department immediately if a violent reaction has occurred; they will instruct you on steps, if any, to take until their arrival. If the spilled chemical is a solid, carefully use a clean broom and shovel to sweep and place it in a clean, dry, plastic container. Avoid breathing any dust (this is where a respirator would come in handy). If possible, dilute the chemical in a bucket of water and add it straight to the pool or tub; test and balance the water afterwards. If it is not possible to add it to the pool or hot tub, contact the fire department for instructions on safe disposal. You should place floor sweepings of chemicals back into the original container, as any foreign substance like dust, dirt, and water can cause a reaction within the container. Do not use a vacuum cleaner or wet/dry vacuum to clean up spilled substances. If the spilled substance is a liquid, you should soak it up with clean, absorbent materials and place it inside a clean plastic or plastic-lined container then flush the area with a large amount of water.
Do not breathe chemical fumes or dust (again, use a respirator if you have one). Wash your skin if contact occurs. If your eyes come into contact with chemicals, flush your eyes for 15 minutes and go to the emergency room immediately.
Never smoke around any chemicals; fire or explosion could result.
Use only a water-filled fire extinguisher on a chlorine chemical fire. Never use an extinguisher filled with dry chemicals.
Keep emergency numbers for the fire department and poison control centre, as well as MSDS sheets of all chemicals posted nearby.