The Shocking Danger of Swimming Pools

(The Philadelphia Inquirer:  Published 06/02/2016, Schaefer, Mari, Web)

Drowning is not the only danger of a swimming pool.  Last weekend, two people – one at the Shore, the other near Harrisburg – were critically injured by electrical shocks after going into the water.  On Saturday, Greg Subiszak, 34, of New Jersey, was found face down in the Aztec Motel pool in Wildwood Crest. He was listed in critical condition on Tuesday in a Philadelphia hospital after a suspected electric shock from a faulty lamp post, according to the Associated Press.  On Sunday, an unidentified eight-year-old Cumberland County, Pa., girl was critically injured and seven other children shocked in a backyard pool.  Police said a child standing outside the pool flipped a switch to turn on a light inside the pool, and there was some kind of electrical malfunction.

In 2014, three swimmers in Philadelphia were treated and released from a hospital after they were shocked by an electrical current while climbing a ladder at O’Connor Pool at 26th and South Streets. The pool was then closed for the season.  While serious, these incidents are rare.  Between 2003 and 2014 there have been 14 reported deaths related to electrocutions in swimming pools, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  For comparison, the National Weather Services reported that in 2015 alone there were 27 fatalities from lightning strikes in the U.S.

Swimmers should be aware of the signs the water may be charged with electricity.  A person who feels a tingling sensation, experiences muscle cramps or is unable to move in a pool may be experiencing electrical shock. Pool lights that flicker are a sign they are not working correctly.  The American Red Cross recommends having a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook/rescue hook on hand to pull swimmers from the pool should a shock or drowning occur.

Gary Grimes, president of Main Line Commercial Pools, said while commercial pools must undergo regular maintenance and inspections for electrical problems, there are no regulations governing backyard pool after the initial inspection.  “The homeowner can do what they want,” said Grimes. “Each township may have a different requirement for pools.”

Electric shock incidents are not exclusive to pools and may occur around boat docks, said Grimes.  In April a 15-year-old Alabama girl drowned while swimming off a boat dock with electricity running through it, according to news reports. The Winston County coroner suspected the electrical charge may have played a part in the teen’s death.

Joe Voci, president and owner of JDV Electric in Philadelphia, recommends yearly inspections of homes and pools by a qualified electrician.  “You want to make sure the ground fault circuit interrupter device is working properly,” he said. Electricians would check the pool, hot tub or spa to make sure nothing has deteriorated, that water has not seeped into the light components and that any metallic parts – including ladders, underwater lights and diving boards, are all properly grounded or bonded.  “You want to try and prevent any problems before they happen,” Voci said.  The pool area must be continually monitored for safety, said Michael Ciarrochi, construction manager for Armond Aquatech Pools.  Landscapers can inadvertently cut grounding wires with weed whackers, an electrician not familiar with codes may place an outside outlet too close to a pool, a replacement pump may not be grounded properly, he said.  “There are things I see every day that are scary to me,” said Ciarrochi.

The attorneys at Liever, Hyman & Potter, P.C., are concerned for the safety of children and families in Reading, Berks County, PA, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, PA, and throughout Eastern and Central PA.  The lawyers there handle injury claims, including claims for serious injuries or death caused by the negligence of others and by unsafe and dangerous products.

From the desk of Adam K. Levin, Esquire.

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