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Safety Smarts for Your Pool

Nothing says summer like the sound of a good cannon ball.

First, the quiet twang of a diving board. Then, the sonic boom of a tightly curled body cracking the water’s surface. A moment’s silence while a geyser shoots into the air… then the big splash. Cheers and challenges are the standard chorus of any respectable cannon ball.

Fun around the backyard pool is the stuff memories are made of. While adults relax and entertain, children proudly master underwater swimming, handstands and diving. Behind the scenes of all this sunny bliss is the serious topic of swimming pool safety.

Fortunately, homeowners are not alone in their desire to create a happy and safe backyard haven. The Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada has created guidelines for workmanship and safety.

While regulations vary across Canada, the guidelines cover aspects of pool construction that the average homeowner may not have considered:

  • Building materials and codes
  • Water circulation and drainage
  • Entries, exits and handholds
  • Electrical components and heaters
  • Sanitation and chemical storage
  • Pool accessories, such as diving boards and slides

Robert Wood, of The Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada, encourages consumers to choose pool contractors who are members of the council. “Members must also adhere to a strict Code of Ethics,” he says, “and we’re actively involved with organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society.”


Safe Fences Make Good Neighbours

All municipalities have height and spacing restrictions for fences. Ed Siciliano, of Coles and Orland Pools, advises: “You can’t go less than four feet because someone can climb over it quite easily. You can’t have gaps under the fence that a child could sneak under, and you must have a self-closing, self-latching gate.” The gate must be padlocked when the pool area is vacant.

A recent change in Toronto bylaws places further restrictions on fencing. “Where it’s okay in surrounding municipalities to have a gate at the side of your house – so the house becomes the barrier between visitors and the pool,” says Siciliano, “it’s no longer acceptable in Toronto. You literally have to have another fence between the pool and the house.” The bylaw is meant to protect children and vulnerable adults within the home.

Equipment, Chemicals and Covers 

Bremner Pool and Spa advocates proper installation and maintenance of pool equipment. Avoiding ventilation issues with pool heaters, for example, will prevent dangerous flames and carbon monoxide.

Safe chemical handling and storage go further than keeping tiny hands off corrosive contents. Avoid inhaling and mixing pool products. Store liquids beneath powders, away from pool heaters, lawnmowers, and fuel.

Solar blankets serve to retain pool temperature but can become a drowning hazard if they aren’t completely removed from the pool before swimming.

After a fun-packed summer, winter safety covers close the gap on more than debris. Don Bremner, of Bremner Pool and Spa, feels it’s one of the most important safety features of a pool.

“They’re selling like crazy,” Bremner says. “It’s a sad reality that we lose a lot of pets, falling into the pool, every year. Plus, aesthetically, a safety cover looks 100% better than the old water bag covers,” he adds, “where you’re looking at old, green water all winter.” The durable, customized covers are anchored to the pool deck during off season.

Diving and Sliding

Diving brings hours of amusement for kids and adults alike. Marc Luff, of Betz Pools, prefers diving boards over diving rocks as the flex will be more forgiving in the event of slippage. “A safe diving board,” he says, “has no runway leading up to it.”

“I’m not a fan of very deep pools (10-12ft) due to the severe slope that results in a “wall” when you dive in,” says Luff. “If the slope is more than a 45 degree angle it becomes an obstacle when you’re coming up from your dive.” Luff says the normal depth for pools is 7ft 6” but Betz Pools prefer 8ft 6”.

As for slides, Luff has concerns that older kids may attempt to jump off tall slides when parents are not looking.

House Rules: Keeping children and adults safe

Pool owners want family and friends to enjoy their backyards without incident. A refresher on rules regarding diving, drinking, rescue equipment, and swimmers’ limits never hurts.

Safety tips are available from The Red Cross. The Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada website offers signage and Special Precautions for Children. Regular inspections are recommended by The Lifesaving Society.

Article provided by: Patti Newman
Patti Newman is a freelance writer and multimedia journalist with a marketing and design background. 

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