May 20 2003
Don?t Swim With Shocks - CPSC,
American Red Cross Warn of Electrocutions in Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs and
-As the weather warms up, swimmers across the country are heading out to
backyard, community and public pools, hot tubs and spas. When it comes to
pool safety, drowning is the first concern that comes to mind; but today,
the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Red
Cross are warning of another hidden danger to swimmers: electrocution. There
have been 60 deaths and nearly 50 serious shocks reported over the past 13
years involving electrical hazards in and around swimming pools.
The CPSC is most concerned about 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
?The best protection for families is inspection, detection, and correction
of electrical hazards in and around swimming pools, hot tubs and spas,? says
CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. ?CPSC strongly encourages residential and
commercial pool owners and operators to upgrade protection of the lights,
receptacles, and switches with GFCIs. Older pools are the biggest concern,
as underwater lighting fixtures may have degraded with age and may not be
protected by GFCIs.?
The CPSC and the American Red Cross are also warning swimmers that
electrical hazards around a pool, hot tub or spa can lead to multiple deaths
or injuries. This occurs when an individual becomes incapacitated by stray
current in the water and one or more persons jump in or reach out to save
the victim, resulting in multiple electrocutions or serious shocks.
In May 2002, a 14-year-old girl from Arlington, Texas, was electrocuted when
wiring problems in an apartment swimming pool?s underwater lights charged
the water with electricity. A 16-year-old boy was seriously shocked when he
jumped in the pool to try to save the young girl. Another teenager used a
fiberglass shepherd?s hook (a non-conductive device) to pull both victims
from the water.
Parents and pool owners should have an emergency plan, posted in the pool
area, to safely help someone who is suffering an electrical shock. This
action is necessary to prevent the victim from drowning and to protect
others from the harm of electrical energy in or around the pool.
In an emergency, the American Red Cross recommends turning off all power;
using a fiberglass hook to carefully remove the victim(s) from the water;
administering CPR; and calling 911.
CPSC?s Safety Tips For Preventing Electrocutions In and Around 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.
Refrain from swimming before, during, or after thunderstorms.
Have an electrician who is 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 NEC.
Protect swimmers from injury by following the NEC requirements for
on underwater lighting circuits operating at 120-volts (CPSC recommends
GFCIs for circuits that are 15 volts or greater);
on pumps and electrical equipment used with pools, spas and hot tubs,
including heaters close to the pool and operated on 240 volt circuits;
on electrical circuits around pools, spas, and hot tubs;
on all outdoor receptacles and receptacles within 20 feet of the water's
edge to protect people from injury.
Test GFCIs monthly to assure continued protection. Infrequently used and
portable or cord-connected GFCIs should be tested before each day's use. To
test a GFCI:
Plug a nightlight into the outlet and turn the nightlight on.
Press the "TEST" button. Did the light go out? If not, replace the GFCI or
have it inspected by an electrician.
Press the "RESET" button. Did the light come back on? If not, replace the
Wear shoes while conducting the test, especially if outdoors or standing on
Use battery-operated appliances instead of cord-connected appliances in and
around a pool, spa, or hot tub.
Post an emergency plan within clear view of those using the pool.
Ensure that overhead power lines and junction boxes are safely positioned
when installing a new pool, hot tub or spa.