According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Most of these drowning deaths happen in home swimming pools which is why swimming pool barriers are so important in preventing unintentional drowning incidents.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has also shared the following statistics in the Pool or Spa Submersion: Estimated Nonfatal Drowning Injuries and Reported Drownings, 2022 Report :
- On average, three hundred eighty-nine pool- or spa-related fatal drownings were registered between 2017 to 2019.
- Seventy-five percent of fatal pool accidents of children 15 and under occurred at residential locations (home pool or neighbor’s pool).
- Seventy-three percent of swimming pool drowning deaths involved children younger than five.
- Seventeen percent of swimming pool-related drowning deaths among children younger than 15 happened in an above-ground pool.
- Nine percent of those pediatric drowning deaths occurred in portable pools.
- Pool- or spa-related, hospital-department-treated, nonfatal drowning injuries involving children younger than 15 years of age spiked 17 percent in 2021 with 6,800 injuries reported, compared to 2020 with 5,800.
Many of these drowning tragedies can be prevented by implementing swimming pool barriers and additional layers of protection.
What are swimming pool barriers?
If you have a swimming pool on your property, you must take measures to keep your kids safe. The first measure is installing proper swimming pool barriers.
A swimming pool barrier is any physical barrier that separates the water from the rest of the yard or surrounding area, thus making it difficult for small children and animals to access the pool area.
These physical barriers are an effective way to prevent unauthorized and unsupervised entry to the water.
Types of Swimming Pool Barriers
Swimming pool barriers can restrict access to the perimeter surrounding the pool (gate or fence) or directly limit access to the water (pool covers). Door alarms can also be considered as swimming pool barriers.
Pool Gates and Fences
All residential pools and spas should be surrounded on all four sides by a 4-foot tall fence with a self-closing and self-latching locking device.
Families with young children and pets should install isolation fencing that separates the pool or spa area from the house or other structures. It should also restrict unauthorized access from neighbors’ yards, nearby buildings, and from inside the house.
The latch release on all gates and fences should be at least 54 inches from the ground and entirely out of the reach of children. If a locking latch is used, it should be kept locked. Just be sure to store the key out of children’s reach and ensure all adults know where you keep it in an emergency.
Gates should also open away from the pool and should never be propped open. When shut, pool owners must double-check the gates to confirm that the latching mechanism is securely fastened and that the gate was not accidentally left open. The pool gate should always be locked, mainly when the pool is not in use, to prevent kids from gaining access to the water.
Bear in mind that small children are curious and resourceful. Make sure any furniture that can be moved to serve as a ladder is kept outside the pool area, at least 4 feet away from the swimming pool barrier. Also, ensure that children and animals cannot dig soil loose from under the pool fence to crawl through to the other side.
Safety covers are another layer of protection that can provide safety when the pool is not in use. They should cover the entire surface of the pool and be anchored securely.
When considering a pool safety cover, choose one that meets the ASTM International voluntary standard F1346-91 , a document that establishes safety cover requirements for swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, and wading pools.
It’s also essential that covers are used and maintained correctly, such as promptly removing any rainwater that it has collected and not allowing children to play on it regardless of its stated weight allowance.
If your home serves as one side of the swimming pool barrier, consider installing alarms on all doors leading to the pool area.
Door alarms can help alert adults if and when a child goes near the pool area.
Safety Codes and Regulations for Pool Barriers
Sadly, no federal swimming pool barriers law exists in the United States. Without a legal framework that clearly defines residential pool owners’ guidelines to ensure safety, consumer and aquatic organizations have redacted and shared their own.
Many communities have enacted safety regulations for barriers meant to keep residential in-ground and above-ground swimming pools safe. Parents who own these pools must implement the five layers of protection needed to reduce the chances of their kiddos accessing the family pool or spa without supervision and should be familiar with the following documents:
Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a guide that outlines pool barrier guidelines that can help prevent drowning incidents involving young children by preventing them from entering the pool area without being supervised by an adult. They consider the variety of swimming pool barriers available and where each might be vulnerable to a child wanting to get on the other side.
The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code
The ISPSC is also an important document to consider. Written by the International Code Council and the Pool and Hot tub Alliance, it contains everything a pool contractor needs to make a residential swimming pool safe and operate efficiently.
The adoption of the ISPSC can reduce drowning accidents by requiring barriers, compliant design, and slopes for entry and exit, work towards the elimination of entrapment incidents once and for all, and ensure that pools and spas are built using approved and safe materials. As a uniform building code adopted in 20 states and 171 local jurisdictions, the ISPSC plays a vital role in safeguarding backyard pools and spas throughout the country.
The Safety Benefits of Pool Fencing and Gates
A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting over, under, and through a fence or gate. It also keeps kids from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present.
Regarding water safety, there is no such thing as being too cautious. A pool barrier is the first layer of protection needed to prevent accidental drownings. According to the CDC, having a swimming pool security fence reduces the likelihood of childhood drownings by 83%.
In addition to keeping kids and animals out, swimming pool barriers can also help keep debris and leaves from blowing into the pool. This can help keep the pool clean and reduce the time you must spend cleaning it.
Installing a swimming pool barrier is a simple and effective way to increase water safety in your backyard. Consider implementing safety measures at home for your family and reduce the chance of drowning.