Swimming pools are a popular way to beat the heat year-round in Florida. If you don’t have your own, you probably know someone who does, or you spend plenty of time at a public swimming pool or a gym pool. Pools offer a great way to get outside, get some exercise, and spend time with friends and family. Sadly, though, swimming pools can often be the sites of serious accidents or even deaths due to drowning.
Pools can be especially dangerous for young children. Between 2010 and 2012, there were an average of 390 annual drowning deaths and 5,100 annual pool-related emergency room treatments for children under the age of 15. Additionally, 75% of all reported drowning fatalities were children under 5.
The state of Florida leads the nation for drowning fatalities, with a drowning rate of 7.29 per 100,000 children between the ages of 1 and 4. These accidents are, for the most part, preventable.
Common Causes and Types of Accidents in Florida Construction
When we hear about swimming pool accidents in Florida, the first thing that comes to mind may be an unsupervised child who doesn’t know how to swim falling in and drowning. However, there are many different types of swimming pool accidents that can happen to people of any age and ability level.
Some other common types of accidents include:
Slipping and falling on a wet surface near the pool
Being injured after diving in a shallow area
Getting caught in a pool drain
Slipping on a diving board
Some reasons why these accidents might occur include:
Lack of swimming ability
Lack of lifeguards or other qualified supervisors
Improperly designed pools
Lack of fencing or other barriers to protect small children
Lack of safety equipment or defective safety equipment
Inadequate warnings or markings around pool
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Even if someone doesn’t die in a swimming pool accident, they may suffer serious injuries that have lifelong consequences. Hitting your head on a hard surface, such as a concrete pool deck or the bottom of a pool after diving in a shallow area, can cause a concussion or even a long-term brain injury. Additionally, the lack of oxygen in a near-drowning accident can cause severe brain damage that leads to long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and loss of basic functioning.
How to Make Pools Safer for Everyone
Because of the risks to inexperienced swimmers and the deceptiveness of the Instinctive Drowning Response, it’s important that children always be closely supervised and that adults around pools familiarize themselves with what drowning really looks like.
Some other safety precautions that everyone should take around pools include:
Having kids take swimming lessons. According to the Center for Disease Control, having kids take formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Older children and adults who don’t know how to swim should also consider taking swimming lessons so that they can be safer around pools.
Providing supervision. If you have kids, take them to pools with lifeguards whenever possible and watch them closely in any kind of pool.
Learning CPR. The longer an individual goes without oxygen in a near-drowning accident, the more likely they are to suffer serious brain injuries. By learning CPR, you can make sure that you’ll be able to quickly provide help if someone does suffer an injury in a pool without lifeguards.
Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol and swimming just don’t mix—you shouldn’t have impaired judgment and limited coordination when you’re around a body of water. Even if you’re just planning on sitting on the edge of the pool, you shouldn’t drink in any situation when you are needed to supervise a swimmer.
Knowing the limitations of pool toys. While young children might enjoy splashing around with water wings or foam “noodles,” parents should not make the mistake of thinking that these toys are actually safety devices.
Installing fences around a home pool. If you have a backyard pool and young children, you should make sure that the pool can be completely closed off so that your child can’t wander off and fall in while you’re not watching.
Clear pool area of tripping hazards. Don’t leave toys or flotation devices lying around the pool deck where people can trip over them. Also make sure that your children—and you—know not to run around a wet pool deck.
Florida recently launched a campaign called WaterproofFL that reminds us that pool safety is everyone’s responsibility. By making sure that you are prepared to offer assistance and are familiar with pool safety precautions, you can help prevent drowning deaths and other pool accidents.
Unfortunately, there are some cases where even someone who is familiar with pool safety isn’t able to prevent an accident. Perhaps your child snuck off to an unfenced pool area, or a particular swimming pool had dangerous defects. Whatever the cause, these accidents can be devastating to families, and you deserve compensation for the medical expenses, emotional trauma, and long-term suffering that this type of incident can cause.
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Drowning Can Be Hard to Identify
In some cases, a child or inexperienced swimmer might have someone supervising them, but that supervisor might not recognize the signs if they start drowning. We’ve all seen movies and TV shows in which characters flail around in the water and yell for help, but drowning does not usually look like this in reality.
Someone who is yelling and splashing is likely experiencing aquatic distress and still needs assistance, but they will still be capable of grabbing a flotation device or lifeline. The Instinctive Drowning Response, however, is much quieter than most people expect, because the drowning person’s respiratory system is devoted to breathing rather than crying out for help. They also cannot wave their arms for help because they instinctively push their arms down to press against the water. Drowning is so deceptive that roughly half of all childhood drowning deaths occur within about 25 yards of a parent or other adult.
Crushed or broken bones. When you work with heavy machinery and equipment, one small mistake or piece of defective material can lead to a shattered or crushed arm or leg. Large objects might fall from above. Vehicles can get away from operators and run over other workers. And then, of course, there are the far too frequent falls.
Injuries to the head. Workers wear hard hats to protect them from falling objects and other dangers, but sometimes it’s just not enough. Far too often, people end up with concussions, lacerations, and even more serious traumatic head injuries from construction site accidents.
General cuts. It seems obvious that people working with sharp blades and other tools like screws and nails might experience a few cuts here and there, but many of these lacerations can be prevented, and some become truly serious, either because of infection or because the cut in question is large, deep, or both.
Hearing loss. Construction equipment can be incredibly loud, and if someone forgets to use earplugs or those plugs aren’t available, their hearing can be severely compromised. Additionally, it’s possible for someone to suffer from hearing loss after being hit on the head.
Damage to vision. Being exposed to dangerous onsite gases, chemicals, and other materials for a prolonged period of time can lead to someone’s eyesight being damaged or even blindness.
Loss of digits or limbs. Beyond bones being crushed, there are also an incredible variety of ways that workers might experience the loss of a finger, toe, or even an arm or leg. Digits might be sliced or blown off by equipment that’s defective or being operated by reckless workers, and mangled body parts may need to be removed in order to save someone.
Heat stroke. People who work construction do so in all kinds of inclement weather conditions, and often work for long hours doing extremely strenuous activities. When this is done in Florida’s very hot weather and workers aren’t given the opportunity for necessary breaks, they might end up suffering a heat stroke. This can cause immediate problems if they faint while operating dangerous equipment, as well as leading to long term problems with the kidneys, heart, and brain.
This list isn’t comprehensive. Many workers experience burns from things like exposed wires, explosions, fires, and chemicals. Others have to deal with damage to their spinal cords. And still others suffer from the stress the repetitive work causes to their body over time. All of these things can lead to exorbitant hospital bills and a lifetime of pain and suffering.