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Health & Pregnancy

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Pool Owners Warned of Electrocution Risk

Electrocution dangers lurk in swimming pools and hot tubs. Is yours safe?

WebMD Health News

May 23, 2003 -- As pool season officially begins this weekend at public and private swimming pools across the country, federal safety officials are warning of hidden danger often overlooked by pool owners -- electrocution. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that electrical hazards in and around swimming pools have been responsible for 60 deaths and nearly 50 serious electrical shocks in the last 13 years.

Aside from taking steps to reduce the danger of drowning in backyard swimming pools, the CPSC says pool owners should also perform an electrical safety check before opening their pools to swimmers. Officials say the areas of biggest concern are:

  • Faulty underwater lighting
  • Aging electrical wiring that hasn't been inspected in years
  • Use of sump pumps, power washers, and vacuums that aren't grounded
  • Use of electrical appliances, such as radios and TVs, or extension cords that could fall or be pulled into the water.

All of these hazards pose an even greater risk if the lighting, circuits, and nearby receptacles are not protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs), which greatly reduce the danger of electrocution.

"The best protection for families is inspection, detection, and correction of electrical hazards in and around swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas," says CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton, in a news release. "CPSC strongly encourages residential and commercial pool owners and operators to upgrade protection of the lights, receptacles, and switches with GFCIs. Older pools are the biggest concern, as underwater lighting fixtures may have degraded with age and may not be protected by GFCIs."

The CSPC and American Red Cross also warn that electrical hazards can cause multiple injuries when others jump in the water to aid someone who is incapacitated by electrical shock. They say parents and pool owners should have an emergency plan in place and posted in the pool area to instruct users on how to help someone who is suffering from electrical shock.

In case of an electrical emergency, the American Red Cross recommends turning off all power, using a fiberglass hook to carefully remove the victim from the water, administering CPR, and calling 911.

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