By | July 25, 2016

The return of summer is the herald to return to the water. Thousands of people flock to pools for enjoyment, but pools are also a source of exercise. Underwater treadmills and water-based exercises are quickly becoming popular since water provides support to the joins and reduces the risk of injury, explains Healthline.

Unfortunately, pools may not be as safe as they appear. The calm water and warm temperatures make them inviting, but as ABC News reports, two people are in critical condition after being shocked in swimming pools. Since hydrotherapy has grown in popularity due to its low-impact exercise benefits, you need to help spread the word among your clients, coworkers, family and friends.


What Causes Pools to Shock People in Them?

From 2003 to 2014, 14 people lost their lives due to electrocutions from swimming pools, but this is not a new problem. Since 1990, pool electrocutions have been the cause of at least 60 deaths and 50 serious electrical shocks, reports the American Red Cross and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The problem arises when an electrical component in the pool, such as underwater lights, automatic lifts for those with disabilities or the filtration system, shorts out. This may reflect a damaged circuit, faulty ground or an electrical wire that has become exposed to water. Even though these pool accessories have become mainstream, everyone must remember that water is a conductor, and any electric current will affect everything and everyone in the water.


What Happens When the Pool Becomes Electrified?

What do you think happens when a pool becomes electrified? Do sparks appear, does the water boil or does the breaker flip?

Ideally, the pool is equipped with a sensor to shut off the electricity when the electrical current of the pool changes. However, most pools, especially private pools, rarely have this safety feature. Without this sensor, there is no way to know if the pool has been electrified before entering it without a voltmeter, which is a device that measures the voltage of an electric current.

In other words, pool electrocutions are the result of one of the following situations:

  1. A person unknowingly enters a pool that has become electrified.
  2. The pool becomes electrified while people are in the water.

How to Prevent Pools From Becoming Electrical Nightmares

Whether you are conducting a hydrotherapy class or educating clients about safety during the summer months, you need to make sure to include the following best practices to prevent pool electrocutions:

  1. Keep wires and electrical devices away from the pool. This includes extension cords, plugged in phones and radios, even those for hydrotherapy classes.
  2. Those who conduct hydrotherapy classes or who have private pools should know where the breakers for any pool-connected device is located, and use portable Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), explains the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  3. If an electrical device falls into the pool, always unplug it first. The water is electrified from the moment the item touches water. Although this seems obvious, with the rising cost of smart phones, some may be tempted to dive for the phone first.
  4. Use low-power lights to minimize injury if an electric shock occurs.
  5. Have a qualified electrician assess the safety and condition of all electrical equipment involving a pool, hot tub or spa.
  6. Keep a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook, a sickle-shaped rescue hook, near the pool as a precaution.
  7. Make sure underwater lights appear to be functioning correctly before entering the pool. Flickering lights or lights that have gone out should be addressed before getting in the water. It could be a burn-out bulb, but is death worth the risk of getting in immediately?

These best practices may seem like overreach, but even if your facility’s pool has recently passed inspection, you are still at risk.


How to Help Someone Who Is Being Shocked in a Pool

As a social worker, hydrotherapy instructor or participant, and advocate for your clients, your first instinct when someone is being shocked by a pool is to jump in to help. However, this will only get you in the same mess as the person in the water. Follow these steps to help some who is being shocked in a pool.

  1. Shut off the pool breakers immediately.
  2. Call 9-1-1.
  3. Use the fiberglass rescue hook to get a person out of the water.
  4. If you are in a pool that becomes electrified, try to get out, but do not use metallic ladders or rails. Metal rails and ladders can intensify the shock.
  5. Provide emergency care for those who have been shocked until EMS arrives. To prevent further injury, even those who appear fine after a pool-related shock should be checked by a health care practitioner.

Final Thoughts

Nothing is more tragic than a parent or friend losing his or her life trying to save another person from an electrified pool. The risk for pool electrocution and death is even higher when there is only one person around or in the pool when the event occurs. It is up to everyone to learn how to respond when a pool becomes electrified.

Before you dive into a pool this summer, take a few moments to be aware of your surroundings. Never enter a pool alone. Look for things that appear out of the ordinary, and be ready to act if a problem arises. Moreover, to improve the overall health of the community you serve, make sure your clients understand that drowning is not the only risk when getting into a pool this summer.

Jason Vanover

Working in health care since 2005, Jason's body of experience encompasses dozens of care settings, including Senior care, psychiatric facilities, nonprofit health service centers, group homes for those with developmental disabilities and beyond. Jason understands the need to tailor his skills to each setting to encourage the best treatment outcomes and promote an inclusive, healing environment.

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