By Paul Netter, Guest Contributor
For many Santa Monicans, swimming is the highlight of the summer. One of the best approaches to keeping it that way is to be aware of the potential electrical dangers, especially around swimming pools and water.
Since 1990, there have been at least 60 electrocutions and 50 serious electrical shocks in and around swimming pools in the country, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Top Six Safety Tips
Own a swimming pool? In addition to having a properly grounded power system, you should have it checked annually by a licensed electrician before using it. Faulty pool lighting and bad wiring — especially in older pools — are perhaps the greatest potential electrical hazards. A safe move is to downgrade pool lighting from 120 volts to 15 volts.
To protect swimmers from shocks, ground fault circuit interrupters should not only be used on pool lighting, they should be used on pumps and electrical equipment, such as heaters, used with pools, spas and hot tubs in addition to all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge.
Electrical cords should be kept at least five feet away from the pool. A safer alternative is to use battery-operated appliances and devices — not cord-connected ones — around a pool, spa or hot tub.
Pool owners should have a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook to remove any victims from the water and should always have an emergency plan within view of pool users. Power switches should also be labeled for pool, hot tub and lighting so they can be turned off quickly in an emergency.
Planning to swim in freshwater lakes, ponds or rivers? Don’t do it around boats, docks and marinas because of the invisible danger known as electric shock drownings. These obscure drownings occur when leaking voltage from a boat, dock or marina incapacitates nearby swimmers.
Along with not swimming around boats, docks and marinas, electric shock drownings can be prevented by owners having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters on boats or GFCIs on marinas and docks. Both devices are equipped to keep electricity out of the water.
“Electric shock drownings and electrical accidents in and around swimming pools are very preventable,” said Paul Jeske, director of Corporate Health and Safety for Southern California Edison. “Maintain high awareness to these hazards and avoid swimming around docks/boats that have electricity nearby.”