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Summer Series | Backyard Pools: Guarding Against Serious Injury or Drowning

July 19, 2016

A family backyard swimming pool is a wonderful asset on a hot summer day. It is the focal point for entertaining friends, backyard barbecues, and fun. But a backyard swimming pool is a deceptively serious risk of injury that can happen in an instant.


Drowning is the most obvious, most widely appreciated, risk of injury. Children of all ages must be carefully supervised. Young children who cannot swim should never be left alone anywhere inside the fenced-in pool area. The same is true with young children who can swim. This is for a number of reasons, including:

  • Limited physical strength and endurance.
  • Lack of judgment as to what they are capable of doing.
  • Lack of awareness as to the sorts of activities and behaviors that can put them at risk of drowning, such as slipping and falling into the pool after hitting their head, or attempting acrobatics around the pool that can result in injury and then an inability to stay afloat.

Adults also should be monitored when consuming alcohol at your pool. As the owner, you need to be aware of when someone is becoming intoxicated and thereby unable to be a reliable swimmer.

Water clarity is also, unfortunately, an issue in some pools. When chemical levels are not properly maintained, the pool water can become cloudy or even opaque. If you cannot clearly visualize the entire bottom of the pool clearly, no one should be allowed to swim, even adults. Any person who goes under may not be seen at the bottom or located until it is too late to save them.

Diving Boards and Slides

Virtually all typical backyard pools are unsuitable for a diving board! There are specific safety requirements to create a diving well of appropriate dimensions before any diving board should be used. Typical backyard pools of 16′ x 32′, 18′ x 36′, or kidney and L-shaped are unsafe for diving boards. Diving boards on pools that do not have a proper and safe diving well of appropriate dimensions create a risk of projecting the diver into the slope from the shallow end to the deep end at a 90º degree angle. The entry point is typically into water that is too shallow to safely enter. There has been a history of broken necks, drownings or near drownings with quadriplegia as a result. For safety’s sake, do not place a diving board on your backyard pool unless an expert has analyzed whether your pool is safe for a diving board.

Swimming Pool Slides

Pool slides are fun for everyone, but also pose known risks of serious injury. Primary risks of harm actually involve children falling off the ladder while climbing up and striking their head on the cement pool apron, or falling off the slide itself when engaged in horseplay, acrobatics, or other risky behavior. It is important to have a spotter at the ladder as well as the slide to diminish the risk of injury.

Be sure a slide extends over the pool in water that is deep enough to avoid injury through contact with the edge of the pool or the side or bottom of the pool.

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