Dive Headfirst Into Swimming Pool Safety

SCE offers tips to combat the silent electrical threats in and around pools, hot tubs and spas.

You might be ready for a summer of swimming pool games like Marco Polo or simply frolicking and swimming your days away, but is your pool safely ready for them?

From building or setting up a portable pool under power lines to not having ground-fault circuit interrupters on all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge, there are many electrical hazards — both visible and hidden — that can endanger unsuspecting pool occupants this summer.

But they don’t have to, not with crucial annual inspections of swimming pools, hot tubs and spas and an awareness of safely navigating the dangers of water and electricity before the fun and games begin.

“It’s vital to periodically have your pool inspected to ensure that pool lighting, ground-fault circuit interrupters and all grounding and bonding systems are functioning properly,” said Ted Gribble, senior manager of Wildfire & Public Safety at Southern California Edison. “These inspections should only be done by licensed electricians with experience working on pools, hot tubs and spas.”

These qualified professionals will replace or upgrade electrical devices and equipment such as underwater lights, junction boxes and pumps and heaters to prevent mishaps and the 41 reported electrocutions and 48 injuries that the Consumer Product Safety Commission says have occurred in pools and spas in the U.S. between 2002-2023.

And don’t forget about overhead hazards. Pools and diving boards should be kept well away from overhead power lines. It is important to maintain the minimum clearance requirements. If you have electric lines near your pool or wish to install a pool in your yard near power lines, first consult with SCE’s Local Planning department at 800-655-4555 or your local inspection agency.

High-powered water squirters should also be kept away from power lines, as should long-handled cleaning tools. Always carry these tools horizontally and keep them more than 10 feet away from lines.

Qualified professionals will replace or upgrade electrical devices and equipment such as underwater lights, junction boxes and pumps and heaters to prevent mishaps.
Qualified professionals will replace or upgrade electrical devices and equipment such as underwater lights, junction boxes, pumps and heaters to prevent mishaps.

Additional pool, hot tub and spa safety tips include:

  • Ground-fault circuit interrupters should be on all pool lighting, circuits, pumps, heaters, all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge and tested monthly.

  • Use portable GFCIs when permanent ones are unavailable.

  • Do not string lights above or near pools.

  • Use only battery-operated devices near pools.

  • Inspect any underwater lighting that flickers, buzzes or has collected mold and rust.

  • If you feel tingling in the water, exit as quickly as possible, avoiding metal ladders and rails.

  • Power shutoff switches should be clearly labeled in case of an emergency.

  • Keep a fiberglass rescue hook nearby.

  • In emergencies, rescuers should never enter the water until the power is turned off.

The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance and the California Contractors State License Board offer databases to help find licensed professionals and verify their licenses, respectively.

Freshwater Electrical Hazard Gets New Attention

Though they can happen in any freshwater lake, pond or river, the obscure killer known as electric shock drowning is gaining some prominent attention in one part of the country.

Amid growing concerns over the silent but deadly hazard, legislation has been introduced in Pennsylvania to prevent the tragedies, which occur when electrical current from boats, docks and marinas enters the water and causes paralysis in swimmers that can lead to drowning.

The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, says “there have been over 60 incidents of electric shock drowning, several near misses and likely hundreds of deaths that have gone unreported.”

These accidents mainly occur in fresh water because the body conducts electricity better than the water itself.

To prevent electric shock drownings, the legislation calls for inspections of boats, docks and marinas as well as the installation of ground-fault circuit interrupters on all marinas and docks and equipment leakage circuit interrupters on all boats.

The devices are designed to keep electricity out of the water and safely protect swimmers. Experts urge swimmers to use caution around docks and marinas equipped with electricity and around running boats due to potentially faulty or nonexistent circuit interrupters.

— Paul Netter

For more safety tips, visit sce.com/safety.