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Swimming Pool and Spa Drains: Body Entrapments and Hair Entrapments are Preventable Hazards

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC, drains in swimming pools and hot tubs pose serious threats of trapping hair and parts of the body. With children, this risk is exacerbated. There are a number of preventative measures that can be taken to avoid this, including drain covers and pressure-venting filter construction techniques such as SVRSs, or, safety vacuum-release systems. 
Drain entrapment can occur by a child playing with or near an open drain and a hand or foot becoming trapped in the pipe by the suction that causes the tissue to swell. Pool entrapment may result in drowning or an evisceration injury that can cause death or permanent disfigurement. Loose fitting articles of clothing can also easily become entrapped from the suction, resulting in drowning.
Hair entanglement can also occur by a child playing with or near a pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool drain, and the child’s hair becoming entangled and trapped due to the suction in the drain. Hair entanglement may result in drowning or near-drowning incidents that may result in serious brain injury from the lack of oxygen.

Alarming Statistics

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported nearly 98 instances of body entrapment involving a swimming pool or spa drain, 15 of them being fatal, between the years 1990 and 2007. The deaths occurred by drowning after the body, or a body limb, was trapped to the drain due to circulation pump suction. The pool entrapments occurred in both residential and public settings:

  • 22 pool incidents occurred in residential settings; 31 in public pools; and the pool location was not given in 21 of the cases
  • 39 incidents occurred in whirlpools, spas, or pools
  • 31 of these events happened in swimming pools, with 3 happening in wading pools

Between 1990 and 2004, 43 events of hair entanglement occurred, 12 of them being fatal. These events most commonly occur in females with long hair as they swim underwater close to a suction outlet. As water flows into the drain, it also takes with it the hair, causing the individual to be stuck underneath the water. Most of these events occur with individuals with shoulder hair length or longer. 

Safety Measures

The following water safety practices are aimed at specifically reducing the hazard of drain entrapments and entanglements in a pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool:

  • Keep children away from swimming pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments and entanglements
  • Never leave children alone in a swimming pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool
  • Make sure that long hair, loose clothing or jewelry are not near a pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool drain or opening
  • Make sure the pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool has a compliant drain cover
  • Install a Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS)—a device that will automatically shut off the pump if a blockage is detected—or any other automatic shut-off system available for a pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool
  • Plainly mark the location of the electrical cut-off switch for the pool or spa pump
  • Know where the pool or spa pump switch is and know how to turn it off

What do you do if someone becomes entrapped or entangled in a pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool drain?

  • Immediately turn off the pump
  • Instead of trying to pull the person away from the suction of the drain or grate, insert fingers or a small object between the drain and the person’s body to break the seal and then roll them off until they’re free
  • Call 911
  • Know and implement life saving skills

The best defense against drain entrapment or hair entanglement is to prevent the incident before it happens by being watchful in and around a swimming pool, spa, hot tub or whirlpool, and never leave children unattended. Regardless of how careful parents may be around swimming pools, our personal injury law firm knows first hand that tragic events can still occur. If you believe that someone may be at fault for a swimming pool accident or drowning accident, or you would just like to discuss your options with an attorney, please do not hesitate to contact our Atlanta law firm. At Goldstein & Hayes, PC, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your claim and in most cases we collect no attorneys’ fees unless we recover damages through settlement or trial.