It’s the time of year where everyone’s getting out their swimwear for the beach and pool. But caution is advised, as safety experts warn that electric shocks are an often-overlooked danger to swimmers.
We all know that water is conductive to electricity, and with more people having private pools in the backyards, this is becoming an exceedingly prevalent hazard.
Danger happens when you least suspect it
Your pool is at risk of becoming electrified and potentially dangerous. Things like lights, pumps, and filters can all electrify a pool. This is especially true if your pool was built prior to 1984, before many pool regulations were set in place.
It’s not only faulty electrical work that increases your risk either, as we use many devices that require an electrical source. These include sound systems, electric grills, and other electrical equipment we use.
Dropping a device connected to a power source into a pool will cause an electrical current to travel throughout the entire pool, including through anyone who happens to be in it.
“Anywhere you may have an electrical device that has faulty or damaged wiring and equipment can cause the body of water to become energized. Then, when the human body comes into contact with that energized body of water, it overwhelms our body’s natural electrical signals that control our muscles,” said Donald Burke, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Advanced Safety and Engineering Management program.
What makes this danger especially hazardous is the fact that there are not visible warning signs of electrified water. If you were to jump into a pool or even touch a pool-side railing, the electric current would travel through your body, causing paralysis of your muscles and potentially leading to “electric shock drowning.”
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take a lot of electricity to achieve this paralysis either. As little as 1/50 of,the amount of electricity used by a 60-watt light bulb is enough to cause paralysis.
In 2016, a 17-year-old lifeguard was shocked by an electrically charged pool, resulting in her death. A faulty grounding wire was to blame, as the pool had not been inspected for years.
Safety experts recommend hiring a certified electrician, preferably one that is certified by the American Boat and Yacht Council to inspect your pool. This will lessen the likelihood of electric shock for you and your family this summer.
Related: Summer swim safety tips