More than a million pools have been built in the U.S. over the last 25 years. Practically any contractor is allowed to design and build a private pool. City ordinances, which are not always enforced, seldom require more than a fence with a self-latching gate for pools within the city limits.
With so many pools and so few safety requirements, experts predict approximately 1,000 people will die and several hundred more will become brain-damaged or paralyzed in swimming pool accidents each year unless proper safety precautions are taken in constructing pools.
Improperly designed pools are one of the most hazardous factors associated with swimming pools. Divers are seriously injured when the pool depth is too shallow, the slope of the pool bottom rises too soon from the deep end, or the pool is too narrow.
The National Spa & Pool Institute publishes minimum standards for residential pools which pool designers and builders may voluntarily follow. The minimum recommended width for residential pools is 12 feet and the minimum depth for diving is 8½ feet.
Pool decks that are too smooth or collect too much water or oil create a very slippery surface that can result in serious injury. Non-slip surface materials should be used and pool decks should be designed with a slight incline to permit drainage.
Drowning is the fourth leading cause of death of children under five. Some of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's tips for residential pool owners are:
- Completely fence the pool and install a self-locking as well as self-closing gate with its latch out of a child's reach.
- If you use a pool cover, be sure it complies with the ASTM voluntary standards and never leave it partially in place.
- Place tables and chairs well away from the pool fence.
- Have a pool-side telephone with emergency numbers taped to it.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool.