How to prevent electrocution and electrical injury in the pool this summer

California dad was electrocuted after jumping in swimming pool to save his daughter; here are some electrical hazards with pools and hot tubs

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As the weather warms up, people are cleaning out pools and venturing back into the family hot tub. When it comes to safety, drowning is usually the first danger that always comes to mind. But a recent tragic story brings warning of an often hidden but just as deadly danger: Electrocution.

Jim Tramel, who was reportedly vacationing with his family in their Palm Springs, Florida home, was electrocuted when he jumped into the pool to save his daughter after he noticed her struggling. Both the father and daughter had to be pulled from the pool, according to a recent article in People, “California Man Is Electrocuted After Jumping in to Save Daughter from Swimming Pool with Faulty Wiring.” When paramedics arrived, the father and daughter were both being administered CPR, but Mr. Tramel was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later on Easter Sunday.

It’s speculated that a pool light, and in particular, faulty wiring in the pool’s light is to blame for the tragic death. Mr Tramel’s daughter remains in critical condition. In addition, a 6-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl and a 45-year-old woman were all treated for related electrical shock injuries from the same pool and released from the hospital, according to published reports.

Throughout the U.S., there have been 14 deaths related to electrocutions in swimming pools from 2003 to 2014, according to the latest statistics available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Hot tubs and spas may present the same electrical hazards as swimming pools.

Today, our electrical injury attorneys would like to review pool safety to help prevent further tragedies.

How do pools pose a risk of electrocution?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is most concerned about the following electrical hazards in pools, hot tubs and even spas:

  • Faulty underwater lighting;
  • Aging electrical wiring that hasn’t been inspected in years;
  • The use of sump pumps, power washers, and vacuums that are not grounded;
  • And electrical appliances (such as radios and TVs) and extension cords falling or being pulled into the water.

“All of these hazards present an even greater risk if the lighting, circuits, and nearby receptacles are not protected by Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters (GFCIs) – the best safety device to prevent electrocution,” according to the CPSC.

In addition, electrical hazards around a pool can lead to multiple deaths or injuries. This occurs when an individual becomes incapacitated by stray current in the water and one or more people jump in or reach out to save the victim, resulting in multiple electrocutions or serious shocks, as in Jim Tramel’s tragic case.

How to protect yourself from electrocution or shock in the pool

To start, it’s important to know the signs of electric shock and impending electrocution:

  • Swimmers may feel a tingling sensation, experience muscle cramps, and/or not be able to move at all and/or feel as if something is holding them in place.
  • Unsettled or panicked behavior by others in the water, one or more passive or motionless swimmer in the water, swimmers actively moving away from a specific area or from a motionless swimmer.
  • Also be on the lookout for underwater lights that are not working property, flicker or work intermittently.

Here’s what you can do to prevent these terrible electrical accidents in the pool.

  • Know where all the electrical switches and circuit breakers for pool equipment and lights are located and how to turn them off in an emergency.
  • Do not swim before, during, or after thunderstorms.
  • Have an electrician who’s qualified in pool and spa repairs inspect and upgrade your pool, spa or hot tub in accordance with applicable local codes and the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Ensure that all electrical wires and junction boxes are at least five feet away from water, as required by the code.
  • Protect swimmers from injury by following the NEC requirements for installing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Use battery-operated appliances instead of cord-connected appliances in and around your pool.
  • Have a fiberglass hook on hand, as you never want to come into contact with someone who is receiving an electric shock, because the current will pass between the bodies.
  • Ensure that overhead power lines and junction boxes are safely positioned when installing a new pool, hot tub or spa.
  • Post an emergency plan within clear view of the swimmers. An emergency plan could include the following recommendation from the American Red Cross: Turn off all power; use a fiberglass hook to carefully remove the victim from the water; administer CPR; call 9-1-1 (read on for a more detailed plan).

Here are more safety tips from the American Red Cross on what to do if you think you or a family member are being shocked in the pool:

  • Move away from the source of the shock.
  • Get out of the water, is possible without using a metal ladder, which is an electrical conductor and may increase the severity of the shock.
  • Immediately turn off all power. If the power is not turned off, rescuers can also become victims.
  • Call or have someone else call 9-1-1.
  • Using a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook/rescue hook to carefully pull the victim out of the water.
  • Then position the victim on his or her back; check for breathing and administer CPR if needed.
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