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Pool Perils: How to Remain Safe Swimming During Michigan Summer

Pool Perils: How to Remain Safe Swimming During Michigan Summer

Trigger warning: this article contains language and video relating to swimming-related accidents that may be disturbing to some readers.

You may remember the tragic incident a few years back when nearly a dozen members of a family visiting a Niles hotel were poisoned by carbon monoxide gas leaking into the building’s indoor pool enclosure. Ten people were rushed to the hospital in nearby South Bend, Indiana, and one child died at the scene.

Or perhaps you recall last October’s drowning of a teen in a Southgate motel’s pool. The youngster was reported to have been attending a party with friends when this tragedy unfolded.

Then there are the numerous other accidental drownings and near-drowning incidents that have been scattered across the state over the past couple of summers – in Grand Haven, Livonia (this one was caught in terrifying video that made national headlines), North Branch, Warren, Lansing and Zilwaukee to name just a few.

In fact, there are so many fatalities and near-fatalities associated with Michigan swimming pools that the state is even keeping track with an official “Public Swimming Pool Accident Report” form. This document asks, among other things, for details on the pool’s previous accident record, any safety violations for which the pool had been cited in the past, the nature of the victim’s injuries, and more.

Let’s face it — as fun as pools can be, they are also extremely dangerous. Which is why we’re taking this opportunity to discuss some common-sense safety precautions any pool owner should follow, as well as highlight Michigan laws regarding pool liability (including a new state law permitting commercial pool owners to serve alcohol at poolside bars). First, let’s talk about safety.

Consider These Common-Sense Pool Rules to Promote Child Safety

 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control regularly tracks the causes of fatalities across the country, and notes that pools are especially hazardous for children. In fact, according to the CDC, “More children ages 1–4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. For children ages 1–14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury or death after motor vehicle crashes.” Indeed, the CDC points out that nationwide around 11 people die every day from drowning, and another 22 people nearly drown. Drowning is such a major cause of death for children that the CDC has published a comprehensive website designed to help reduce this hazard.

One of the most effective safety measures pool owners can take is to fence in the pool area. The CDC notes that fencing a pool on three sides (with a home serving as the fourth side of the barrier) can offer some added security, but a complete four-sided fence surrounding the pool (and keeping it entirely physically separated from the house) reduces child drowning risk 83 percent comparatively!

Another pool safety basic is to ensure drain covers are intact and designed to prevent swimmers with long hair from becoming entangled by water flowing into the filtration system. This problem has largely been eliminated in recent years due to passage of the 2007 VGB Act, a law named for Virginia Graeme Baker, a child who drowned after her hair was sucked into a faulty hot tub drain. Because of this law, pools today must be “VGB compliant” – meaning drain covers must be designed to minimize suction forces. But if you have an older pool, or its drain covers have been compromised or damaged, you should definitely have it professionally inspected for safety.

Diving into a pool (or any body of water) can also be problematic, as spinal injuries resulting from people hitting their heads and damaging their vertebrae are sometimes severe. As WZZM TV in Grand Rapids recently reported, diving is one of the top five leading causes of spinal injuries. Dr. Jonathan VandenBerg, who serves patients in that city’s Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, suggests always entering the water feet first to prevent diving injuries to the head and neck. 

Needless to say, providing adult supervision at all times is another way to keep kids safe in the water. Just because your children can swim doesn’t mean they should be permitted to swim alone… or even with a small group of friends (as some of the incidents we’ve highlighted above certainly demonstrate).

Follow State and Local Swimming Pool Regulations

 
Michigan has stringent rules in place regarding the construction and safety of swimming pools. The state’s 30-page pool guidebook covers health codes, construction regulations, and rules governing the safe operation of pools open to the public. Additionally, municipalities across the state have passed their own ordinances regarding the installation and safe use of private swimming pools — particularly by mandating fencing that meets specific requirements for height and strength. This document, provided by Waterford Township, is a good example, but we advise you to check your own locality’s regulations to confirm your pool meets local safety rules. A licensed Michigan pool contractor can also provide recommendations to best ensure you are meeting all requirements. Furthermore, your homeowner’s insurance company can also provide tips on avoiding liability issues if you own a private swimming pool. And remember that homeowners – and pool owners – can be held legally liable for such incidents as slip-and-fall accidents… which is why so many lifeguards and pool attendants continually warn kids not to run!

The Latest Kind of “Wet Bar” – It’s Pure Michigan

 
Finally, we thought you should know that Governor Whitmer has recently signed into law a bill permitting commercial establishments to sell alcohol in public swimming pool settings. The bill’s requirements are detailed in a Michigan Liquor Control Commission permit application that requires – among other things – that the area in which alcohol is sold be clearly defined (including by using buoys floating in the water if applicable), pool water temperatures not exceed 104 degrees, and lifeguards be present at all times the drinking area is open. We believe the state’s “dram law” will apply to these new “wet bars” – which means people who serve alcohol to minors or to individuals who are obviously under the influence can be held liable for any injuries they might cause to others.

Of course, no number of rules, regulations, laws, or ordinances can provide complete protection from pool injuries, potential drownings, or other water safety incidents. So if you or someone you love gets injured in a Michigan swimming pool – be it private or public – the personal injury attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm will dive into your case to help you get the compensation you need to recover your health and return to your normal life. Give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or click here today.