10 Common Pool Safety Hazards (and How To Avoid Them)

Bright yellow caution sign sitting next to a swimming pool

As your Bay-area pool safety experts, we’ve seen plenty of pool dangers out there, and we work hard to help our customers avoid every one of them. An unmanaged swimming pool hazard can turn an afternoon of family fun into a tragedy. By learning to recognize and address issues in the pool area, you can create the safer swimming pool area your loved ones deserve. Focusing on swimming pool safety doesn’t just help your pool avoid becoming the site of one of the nearly 4000 deaths per year but also reduces the risk of a whole range of injuries that can cause anything from minor discomfort to the potential loss of life.

The Compounding Dangers of the Swimming Pool Area

As we look at the top pool dangers, you’ll notice that many of them aren’t confined to swimming pools. They include some pretty common hazards that can happen anywhere around the home. When they happen in the pool area, however, the danger increases exponentially. Anything that puts you at risk of a temporary or permanent physical or mental impediment around water increases your risk of an accident turning into an emergency. An accidental drowning can happen in just seconds, making it vital to watch for and eliminate swimming pool hazards immediately.

Leading Dangers in Swimming Pool Areas

Every swimming pool and the dangers it faces are different, but there are some swimming pool hazards that are more common than others. The following list isn’t presented in a set order of occurrence or importance. Rather, it gives you some key points to look out for when building a safer swimming pool area for your loved ones.

Lack of Supervision

An unsupervised pool is dangerous to pets, children, the elderly, and anyone who is mobility or cognitively impaired. Anytime your pool is potentially accessible, a competent and responsible adult should be in charge of the action. It only takes seconds for a dangerous situation to happen. If you have to step away from the pool area while guests are using it, either clear the pool for a “rest and hydration” break or assign another adult as the water watcher, making sure they understand their responsibility and its importance.

Poor Lighting

As the days get longer, it’s tempting to stay in the pool as the sun goes down. Temperatures are rising, the water is taking longer to get the evening chill that usually chases us inside for the evening, and what harm could a few more minutes do anyway? Unfortunately, as visibility goes down, so does your ability to spot potential pool dangers, like loose tiles or raised deck screws. 

Child wearing a yellow t-shirt sitting in the shallow end of a swimming pool after sundown

Everyone should be out of the pool, and the pool closed down while there is still plenty of light to see by–which can be especially difficult if children are involved that have spent all winter in anticipation of pool days. Make sure you have professionally installed lights around your pool area to aid swimmers as twilight sets in, or set an alarm to get everyone safely out of the pool area before nightfall sets in.

Insufficient or Damaged Entry and Exit Areas

It’s important that the entries and exits to your pool are properly maintained, including tightened rungs on ladders, anti-slip pads, and handrails. If your pool features accessibility equipment, like a lift or hoist, then it, too, needs to be maintained. While a loose railing may not seem like a major swimming pool danger, if it prevents a tired swimmer from exiting the pool or gives way while supporting a mobility-compromised person, the results could be tragic. Make sure to inspect your pool equipment and all entry and exit points regularly, and ensure all equipment is repaired or replaced when damage is noted.

Entanglement and Entrapment

Anything that prevents swimmers from effectively navigating the water increases their drowning risk. Entrapment happens when the powerful suction of your pool’s circulation system holds a swimmer underwater either through the vacuum created against their body or by sucking in loose articles, such as hair, swimsuit ties, or jewelry, which then snag inside the apparatus. All pools should be equipped with anti-entanglement drain covers and automatic or manual safety shutoffs for the pump that make it easier to rescue trapped swimmers. 

Entanglement happens when something such as a towel left beside the pool, a leaf cover, or another object tangles a swimmer’s arms or legs, binding or obstructing their limbs and reducing their ability to keep themselves above the water. Both of these can lead to drowning. Make sure the pool is clear of obstructions and all safety equipment is installed before allowing swimmers into the area.

Electrical Hazard

Electricity and water don’t mix, but too many pool owners and users fail to recognize how easily these swimming pool dangers enter your pool area. From shorted pool lights to extension cords and chargers for seemingly ever-present phones and tablets, electrical injuries are on the rise. Electrical shock injuries can range from a minor but painful sting to electrocution, and even a minor shock that compromises your consciousness or ability to control your body can potentially lead to drowning. 

Make sure all electrical pool accessories are installed by a qualified electrician experienced in pool-area wiring. Extension cords, chargers, and other plug-in electronics have no place inside the pool area and should be kept at a safe distance. Make sure all metal furniture or fixtures are bonded or grounded, and leave the pool area entirely anytime you hear the thunder that accompanies approaching lightning.

Contaminated Water

Swimming pool water with leaves and debris floating at the top

Pool water should be clean, clear, and properly maintained. In order to do this, pool owners rely on circulation, filters, vacuums, and a host of chemical additives that need to be carefully balanced. Dirty pool water can smell bad and look dirty, but even worse, it can also make swimmers sick. Contamination can come from bugs or vermin using the pool, a proliferation of algae carried in by blowing debris, or bacteria from the bodies of pool guests or that is introduced during “accidents” in the pool. Make sure you check your water regularly, balancing the chemicals, and that your water is prepared to fight off contamination before you allow swimmers into the pool area.

Chemical Burns

Your pool’s chemistry is balanced to protect it from biological threats, but too many pool owners think that more is better, leading to a very common swimming pool hazard. Chemical burns can irritate the skin, burn the eyes, and enflame mucous membranes. This is often the result of failing to wash off splashed materials while adding pool chemicals or unsupervised children around during the treatment process but it can also come from adding too high of a concentration to the pool in a misguided attempt to “get ahead” of an issue. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter and never mix chemicals, as this can create potentially lethal cocktails of chemicals in the water or air.

Slips and Trips

Some of the most common swimming pool dangers are caused by wet conditions on smooth surfaces outside the pool itself. Whether from horseplay, rushing around the edge of the pool too fast, or just losing their balance, slips are an ever-present risk. Loose towels at poolside, pool toys that haven’t been properly stored, and damaged equipment can also take the feet out from under a swimmer. Make sure the area around the pool is kept clear, grip surfaces are fully installed, and that swimmers–especially young and boisterous ones–know to calmly walk around the edge of the pool.

Lack of Effective Safety Barriers

Brown mesh removable pool fence installed around a backyard swimming pool

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance has cited a lack of safety barriers as a contributing factor in the majority of accidental drowning injuries. Safety barriers, like removable mesh pool fencing, safety covers, and safety nets, help prevent unsupervised entry and aid you in keeping guests and family members out of the pool area when electrical, chemical, or other swimming pool dangers are present. With professionally installed safety barriers, you’re in control of your swimming pool’s access.

Lack of Alarms

It takes mere moments for a curious child to find themselves in harm’s way. Alarms provide an additional layer of protection by alerting you when a dangerous situation may be occurring in your pool area. Gate alarms warn you when the entrance to your pool is opened or left ajar. Immersion alarms sense entry into the water itself, giving you a chance to save potential drowning victims. For high-risk individuals, like kids and special needs adults, wrist monitors can warn you when they’ve entered the water, providing additional assurance and peace of mind.

Get Your Free Safety Quote

Our professional installers are right down the road when you need help improving your pool’s safety. They’ll talk to you about your pool’s needs, take measurements, and give you a written quote that lays out your options. Keep your loved ones protected with a safer pool from Lifeguard on Duty today.

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