Pool Tragedies are Preventable
Swimming pools should always be happy places. Unfortunately, each year thousands of American families confront swimming pool tragedies - drownings and near-drownings of young children. These tragedies are preventable. This information obtained from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) handbook, offers guidelines for pool barriers that can help prevent most submersion incidents involving young children. This information is designed for use by owners, purchasers, and builders of residential pools, spas and hot tubs.
Recommendations to Make Pools Safer
The swimming pool barrier guidelines are not a CPSC standard and are not mandatory requirements. Therefore, the Commission does not endorse these guidelines as the sole method to minimize pool drownings of young children. The Commission believes, however, that the safety features recommended will help make pools safer.
Swimming Pool Drownings
The speed with which swimming pool drownings and submersions can occur is a special concern; by the time a child's absence is noted, the child may have drowned. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child's ability to move quickly and unpredictably, make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children.
Swimming pool drownings of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will occur to alert a parent or caregiver that a child is in trouble.
CPSC staff have reviewed a great deal of data on drownings and child behavior, as well as information on pool and pool barrier construction. The staff concluded that the best way to reduce child drownings in residential pools was for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that would prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there are no substitutes for diligent supervision.
The Swimming Pool Barrier Guidelines
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.
A young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low or if the barrier has handholds or footholds for a child to use when climbing.
The guidelines recommend that the top of a pool barrier to be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool.
For a Solid Barrier
No indentations or protrusions should be present, other than normal construction tolerances and masonry joints.
For a Barrier (Fence) Made up of Horizontal and Vertical Members
If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be on the swimming pool side of the fence. The spacing of the vertical members should not exceed 1 3/4 inches. This size is based on the foot width of a young child and is intended to reduce the potential for a child to gain a foot hold. If there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1 3/4 inches.
If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool. The spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. This size is based on the head breadth and chest depth of a young child and is intended to prevent a child from passing through an opening. Again, if there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1 3/4 inches.
For a Chain Link Fence
The mesh size should not exceed 1 1/4 inches square unless slats, fastened at the top or bottom of the fence, are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1 3/4 inches.
For a Fence Made of Diagonal Members (Latticework)
The maximum opening in the lattice should not exceed 1 3/4 inches.