Faulty pool lighting and bad wiring are the greatest threats this summer, but can easily be eliminated by inspections and maintenance.
By Paul Netter
With summer in full swing, has your swimming pool been inspected within the past year by a licensed electrician or pool contractor?
It’s a safe idea to get that done right away.
Potential hidden electrical dangers in and around pools, as well as hot tubs and spas, should not be ignored, said Andrew S. Martinez, vice president of safety, security and business resiliency for Southern California Edison.
A reminder of this occurred recently when four people, including two children, were hospitalized after being shocked in a Palm Desert swimming pool. Since 2002, there have been at least 21 electrocutions in swimming pools, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Faulty pool lighting and bad wiring — especially in older pools — are generally considered the greatest potential electrical hazards.
“Annual inspections are the best way to avoid these dangers,” said Martinez. “They should only be done by licensed electricians or pool contractors who will not only make sure your pool system is properly grounded, but also inspect your lighting, wiring connections and junction boxes to ensure they are properly and safely installed. They should never be done by pool owners or cleaning crews.”
Licensed professionals will also make upgrades to comply with applicable local codes and the National Electrical Code.
To further protect swimmers from shocks, working Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters should not only be used on all electrical equipment but also on all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge. Electrical cords should also be kept at least five feet away from pools, hot tubs and spas, with Martinez strongly encouraging the use of battery-operated appliances and devices instead of cord-connected ones.
And rescuers in emergencies like the one in Palm Desert should make sure the current is stopped before entering the water or touching a conductive fixture. But, the emergency steps don’t end there.
“Pool owners should always have an emergency plan within view of pool users in addition to a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook to remove any victims from the pool,” said Martinez. “Power switches should also be labeled so they can be turned off quickly during emergencies.”
Prevention, however, can help avoid such emergencies.
“Swimming pool, hot tub and spa electrical accidents are easily prevented,” said Martinez. “But pool owners must use licensed professionals and follow electrical codes to achieve that prevention.”
The author works for Edison.