With swimming season upon us, it is important to remain vigilant of the potential safety hazards that can ruin a day of sunshine and swimming. There is no better reminder than the tragic death of 7-year old Calder Sloan who was recently electrocuted in his family’s North Miami swimming pool. Faulty wiring to the pool light is the prevailing theory as to the cause of the electrocution. A pool inspector found that one of the wires from the pool’s light switch to transformer was not properly connected for grounding purposes – allowing 120 volts to flow to the pool’s light. Some think that this excess voltage accelerated the corrosion of the steel barrier encasing the light – and with excess corrosion, eventually water was allowed in the casing which electrified the pool.
A well-grounded system would have diverted the excess voltage to the ground rather to the pool.
Nine-months prior, a contractor was hired to fix the broken light. This company may bear some negligence – however some experts have also explained that Florida’s salty air can also cause electrical-equipment connections to corrode or loosen. As the pool is decades old, it may not have been maintained properly.
Usually, pools that were installed prior to 1984 have 120 volts going to the pool light – but also have a step-down system that reduces the 120 volts to just 12. If you own an older pool, consider having a licensed electrician verify that the wiring from the pool light switch to the transformer to the light is properly grounded via an independent grounding system.
Experts also suggest the same thing for landscape and driveway lighting – which should have a grounded low-voltage power source to prevent electrocution on a rain or sprinkler-soaked grassy lawn.
Keep a look out for buzzing noises, lights that flicker, fixtures showing signs of corrosion/rust – these are all signs that it’s time to bring in an expert. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns about all pool-related systems that haven’t been inspected in years – sump pumps, power washers, and vacuums all need to be grounded – preferably using a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).
It is unclear if the contractor hired by the Sloans was simply a handy man or a licensed electrician. This is a common source of problems in South Florida. There are plenty of people who claim to have expertise fixing just about anything – but it is imperative, especially when dealing with electric issues, to make sure that the contractor is a licensed and insured electrician.
Electricity, of course, isn’t the only danger associated with swimming pool injuries. To protect young children and medically-frail elderly – in 2009, the Florida Legislature enacted the Residential Swimming Safety Act – requiring four-foot high fencing around the pool. The fencing must be sufficiently set back so that, if a child were to cross the barrier, he or she would not automatically fall into the pool.
Of course, parental supervision is the most important step to protect against pool-drowning incidents involving young children. I have seen some parents hire a life-guard at swimming-pool parties at private homes so that someone always has their eyes on the pool.
Historically, the unremittent suction of pool drains was a cause of horrible injuries and death of curious children and adults who swam too close to their pool’s drain. In 2007 the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Safety Act was enacted by Congress to prevent drain entrapments. Modernized drains have safety features that prevent these kinds of injuries – however older systems may still cause a threat. Verify that your pool drain has a safety-vacuum release system, suction-limiting vent system, automatic pump-shot off system, drain disablement system, domed drain / VGB compliant drain cover or other systems approved to eliminate suction-related drain pool accidents.
It’s important to maintain the proper amount of chlorine in your pool to avoid pool-related infections and illnesses. Hire a pool expert or test for appropriate chemical balance. The CDC provides instructions and suggestions here.
The death of 7-year old North Miami boy Calder Sloan is a tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Hopefully, this will catalyze others to take pool-safety precautions so future lives will be spared.
Related Swimming Pool Injury Lawyer Blog Post: