Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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NOW Do We Self-Regulate?

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on August 14, 2013

The 5-year old son of Usher, a celebrity, is caught in a pool drain and ends up in intensive care.  It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time such an incident occurs. The death of 6-year old Abbey Taylor prompted the birth of Abbey’s Hope, a charity dedicated to raising awareness, and in 2002 the issue received wide-spread publicity in the U.S. following the death of Virginia Graeme Baker, granddaughter of a former Secretary of State. Spurred by Graeme’s death, a law was enacted in 2007 that, among other things, requires public pools and spas to have compliant drain systems installed. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has done an outstanding job of educating the public about pool safely with their PoolSafely.gov site and regular campaigns about pool safety in the U.S., an initiative I would like to see widely replicated globally.  Click here to read the CPSC response to the entrapment of Usher’s son.

The problem is, the legislation covers only public pools, not private pools, like the one that caught Usher’s son, so even with the excellent PoolSafely campaign, dangerous pool drains still exist. Clearly this requires even greater education and awareness campaigns, but it needs more, it needs regulation and it needs self-regulation.  According to the CPSC, the swimming pool industry has embraced the need for safer pool drains and has consistently developed safer drains, but is still having trouble getting the public, the private pool owners, to make the change.

I have written before about the need for the aquatic industry to regulate themselves before they become regulated, possibly with poorly-thought-through or unnecessarily onerous legislation. I still feel strongly that we must begin to self-regulate ourselves, the same way that medical doctors and lawyers self-police and regulate. An outstanding place to start is in pool construction and drain covers.  Every certified pool installer/maintainer should inform private pool owners of the danger and make a safe alternative available, cost-effectively.  The CPSC has brochures available at no cost.  I’d go further, I’d strongly support a recall of old drains, as unlikely as that is to happen. (yup, you can all do an economic loss shudder right now) Of course, you could turn it into an economic opportunity and, with the current publicity raising awareness about the danger of old drains, offer clients the chance to inspect their pool drains and make sure they are compliant, or are replaced.  Again, contact the CPSC for brochures about the issue to give to private pool owners.

In light of the publicized recent tragedy with pool drains, I will make the argument for self-regulation of the industry again, strongly, but with an additional prod. It’s the right thing to do. I know that the majority of pool installers and manufacturers are ethical and want people to enjoy pools, not have children’s lives literally sucked out of them by a faulty pool drain. So I charge you, regulate your industry, and weed out the unethical practitioners, because they are damaging your industry and your reputation.  To those few of you who want to dump old inventory, want to make a quick buck, or simply don’t care, well, you aren’t reading this anyways because you don’t care about kids dying, but be warned, if I hear about it, I’ll be using my voice to put you out of business.

We don’t know all the contributing factors in Usher V’s incident, but we do know that drains do not have to trap small children. We have the technology and the products to change that. Let’s do it.

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