Swimming Safety

Protect your child from drowning with simple swimming safety tips.

About 10 people die every day in the United States from unintentional drowning according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, two are children 14 years old or younger.

The latest stastics from the CDC indicated an average of 3,400 persons are victims of fatal drowning each year and an estimated 5,789 persons are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal drowning. Death rates and nonfatal injury rates were highest among children 4 years old and younger and these children most commonly drowned in swimming pools. Drowning is the leading cause of death for infants and young children in 18 states and, nationally, ranks second only to automobile accidents.

In addition to drowning, data suggests that as many as 200,000 people are injured badly enough in swimming pools annually to warrant hospital treatment and one child dies every single day from unintentional drowning.

Swimming alone or without adult supervision leads to many drownings. Each year, headlines note the deaths of infants and children who tumble into pools and drown because a gate was left open or they otherwise were able to gain access to a pool when no one was around to save them.

Many severe injuries result from falling on slippery walkways and decks and falling from diving boards and ladders. Diving and jumping into shallow water also are major causes of serious injuries.

Although many pool accidents are related to running and roughhousing, numerous injuries also are attributed to the pool, its accessories and general environment. The severity of injuries associated with swimming pool water slides -- permanent disabilities for some adults and children who went head first down the slide and struck the bottom of the pool-- is also alarming.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends a number of precautionary measures homeowners can take to reduce home pool hazards. Construction and maintenance:
Portions of this article reprinted by permission of the American Bar Association from The Domestic Violence Safety Plan:  Safety Tips For You And Your Family, a joint project of the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section and the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence.

  • Check local ordinances and codes for safety requirements.
  • Use non-slip materials on the pool deck, diving board and ladders.
  • The steps of the pool ladder should be at least three inches wide, and the ladder should have handrails on both sides small enough for a child to grasp. There should be a ladder at both ends of the pool.
  • Electrical equipment should be installed by a licensed electrician in accordance with local safety codes. Ground-fault circuit interrupters are now recommended for pool area installations. Faulty electrical installations could cause serous or fatal electric shock.
  • Check with a reputable pool contractor to be sure the depth is sufficient for a diving board or slide. Always put a slide in a deep area of the pool-- never in shallow water.
  • There should be a fence at least six feet high around all sides of the pool with a locked gate to keep children out when there is no supervision and the fence should be constructed so it is difficult to climb. Lawn furniture, trees and shrubs should not be close enough to provide an easy boost over the fence. Avoid using a side of the house as part of the fence; toddlers have wandered out through an open patio door or window and drowned.
  • Mark water depths conspicuously. Use a safety float line where the bottom slope deepens.
  • Above-ground pools: Install sturdy guard rails around the pool deck. Look for rolled rims on the metal shell to be sure the rims do not present a sharp cutting edge if someone falls. The access ladder to the deck should be sturdy and without protruding bolts or other sharp edges. The access ladder should swing up to prevent children from unauthorized entry or should be easily removable for secure storage away from the pool area.
  • Check the pool and equipment periodically for cleanliness and good maintenance. Cover all sharp edges and protruding bolts; repair rickety or broken ladders and railings. Replace non-slip materials when they wear out.

Accidents in the swimming pool can happen very suddenly without warning. It is very important that all parents follow these basic safety precautions especially if there is a swimming pool at home.

  • Obviously teach children to float or swim as soon as possible.
  • Always provide competent adult supervision when the pool is in use.
  • Even adults should never swim alone.
  • Caution children against showing off and playing rough and explain the dangers of running and diving recklessly.
  • Never push others into the pool.
  • When using water slides, always go feet first.
  • Before diving or sliding, check to be sure that other swimmers are out of the way.
  • Keep rescue devices and first aid supplies near the pool. A floating shepherds crook is useful.
  • Teach children what to do in case of emergency. An alarm bell that could summon help would be a good idea.
  • Keep electrical appliances such as radios out of the pool area because of the hazard of electrical shock.
  • Never swim after drinking alcoholic beverages, eating or taking medications.