Nothing quite epitomizes a summer day like basking in the sun’s rays with a good book and a tall glass of iced tea in hand, followed by a cool dip in the swimming pool. After a particularly severe winter, Minnesotans will undoubtedly be making the most of their summer, squeezing in as much time in the sun and water as possible. But it only takes a couple of seconds for the fun and relaxation to come to a grinding halt – slipping, tripping and falling on a wooden pool deck or cement pool patio is no joke.
Did you know that if you have a swimming pool on your property, you can be held liable for any injuries that occur there? Aside from simply wanting your friends, family and guests to have a great time swimming or lounging by your pool (without getting hurt), protecting yourself from a possible lawsuit is an additional incentive for ensuring your pool area is kept safe. In the end though, preventing poolside slip and fall injuries from happening is both the owner’s and the user’s responsibility. Here are some guidelines to keep everything (and everyone) safe.
THE DANGERS OF SLIP AND FALL INJURIES
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 8.9 million people visit the emergency room every year due to slip and fall injuries.
In general, children and adults age 65 and older are more likely to fall. This risk increases around swimming pools which are, by their nature, inherently prone to slip and fall accidents. Typical types of injuries that a person can sustain from taking a nasty poolside spill include everything from sprained wrists, strained muscles, dislocated hips and broken bones to spinal cord and head injuries. In the worst case scenario, a slip and fall injury can result in paralysis or even death.
POOLSIDE SLIP AND FALL PREVENTION TIPS
Carelessness and poor swimming pool maintenance are the primary causes leading to slip and fall injuries around a pool.
For the property owner:
The most important thing to do as the owner of the pool is to make sure your deck, patio, stairs and surrounding walkways are made of, or have been treated with, a slip-resistant material. A quick online search will reveal a plethora of do-it-yourself products and strategies from abrasive tape to spray-on non-slip coatings.
Make sure that your pool deck has good drainage and that large amounts of water are not collecting in one place. Tip: for patios, smaller mosaic tiles are recommended, as larger ones are more prone to collect water.
Place slip-resistant mats near ladders and encourage swimmers to dry their feet as soon as they get out of the pool.
Clean the deck/patio regularly. This keeps algae and mold from building up which can add a layer of sliminess to the already wet surface. If you have a lot of guests using your pool, keep a log of when the deck was cleaned. This can help you stay on top of your regular maintenance as well as protect you in case of a lawsuit.
Install handrails on stairs leading to, and into, the pool and in any other dangerous areas.
Install a fence with a gate around the deck or patio. This is absolutely essential for preventing young children and toddlers from accidentally getting into the pool and drowning, but it can also give someone something additional to hold on to if they think they could possibly fall. It also helps by demarking the space and separating it from the rest of the yard, preventing children from just running through.
Clear the deck and walkways of debris, toys and other tipping hazards. Make sure they’re kept that way.
Post signs that make it clear that running and horseplay are not permitted in and around the pool. If there are other hazards specific to your pool be sure to let people know beforehand.
Of course the owner can only do so much when it comes to being careful. It is up to those using the pool to obey their rules, use common sense and refrain from running or playing on the deck/patio. If your kids are using the pool, make sure you let them know what the rules are, what your expectations are as a parent, and the potential risks involved if they don’t listen.
Lastly, invest in a pair of slip-resistant sandals or other traction footwear that is designed for use in/around the water.
As the leading cause of unintentional injury in America (as reported by the NSC), slip and fall injuries should not be taken lightly. With a little care and consideration you can ensure a summer of swimming in the pool, rather than watching it from the deck while your kids sign your new leg cast.