Safety Tips - Detailed
Playing it Safe with Pools
Pools and spas are fun for everyone. Knowing
and following safety guidelines will help everyone enjoy their
leisure hours safely. This page presents basic information on the
main hazards associated with the mechanical equipment used with a
pool or spa:
- Pump suction (from the main circulating
- Compressed air trapped in the filter system
- Fire, explosion, or asphyxiation from a
gas-fired pool heater
Please read this page, and then make a habit
of practicing basic safety in the use and care of pool and spa
equipment. Also, read your equipment owner’s manuals carefully.
Keep them handy and refer to them for detailed maintenance
instructions and safety information. Contact your pool professional
or dealer if you need advice or to replace a lost manual.
Please take time to review these guidelines
now, and keep safety in mind at all times in and around pools and
spas. Taking the time periodically to inspect your equipment will
result in many hours of carefree relaxation.
Routine Maintenance Tasks
Routine maintenance helps keep your pool and
spa system operating safely and efficiently. Follow a regular
check-off procedure for all the safety-related items. or have your
pool professional perform the following tasks regularly:
- Make sure that each suction outlet has a
cover that is installed correctly, screwed down, unbroken, and
certified for that application.
- Make sure that all skimmer covers are in
place, screw-fastened and unbroken.
- Make sure that the filter pressure gauge is
in good working condition and that the filter pressure is within
the operating range specified in your filter owner’s manual.
- Make sure that filter 0-rings are sealing
properly and in good condition.
- Bleed off accumulated air from the system.
- Empty the skimmer baskets and the pump
strainer basket of debris.
- Remove any debris or obstructions from the
main drain cover.
- Remove obstructions and combustibles from
around the pump motor air vents.
- Make sure that all chemicals are properly
stored (away from equipment).
- Make sure that the heater is functioning
- Make sure that there is no gas smell around
- Make sure that all grounding and bonding
wires are connected and in good condition.
- Make sure that all wiring connections are
tight and clean and that all wiring and electrical equipment are
in good condition.
If you are new to pools and spas, please take
a moment to use this glossary and the picture to the left to get
acquainted with some of the technical terms and equipment names used
on this page. Use the pictures of typical equipment on the left to
help you identify all of the equipment in your installation.
Remember, though, that your equipment may not look exactly like the
typical examples we have shown here.
Release Valve: The valve on top of a filter or
separation tank which allows you to manually release the air out
of the system. This reduces the risk of a filter or separation
A device to automatically feed small quantities of chlorine into
the pool to help keep the water disinfected (as part of the
chemical treatment of the water). Some pool systems use bromine
compounds instead of chlorine compounds. Never mix the two —the
combination may explode.
A device to clean pool water by filtering out dirt, oils, etc.
Filters may use diatomaceous earth (DE), cartridges with a
fine-mesh element, or a sand bed as the filtering agent.
and Anti-Vortex Covers: Protective covers for the
main drains. Each main drain must have a cover that is IAPMO
certified to be of anti-entrapment and anti-hair-entanglement
design, and rated for the flow that it must handle. It must be
correctly installed with screws. Operating a pool without proper
covers on the main drains is extremely dangerous.
A device to automatically heat pool or spa water to the desired
temperature and maintain it there. A heater typically has
automatic thermostat controls, and may be controlled by a time
Niche: The recess in the side of the pool to take an
underwater light. Also the can containing the light, cord, etc.,
which goes in the recess.
Circulating Pump: The pump which pulls water from the
pool and pumps it back to the pool through the filter, heater,
chlorinator, etc. When the pump is working properly, there will
be a strong suction at the suction outlet (see #10). Anything
sealing off the suction outlet (on a system with only one
suction outlet) will be held there by pressure of the water
trying to flow into the pump.
Drain: The fitting on the bottom of the pool which
leads to the main circulating pumps inlet pipe. All pools and
spas should have more than one main drain (except some
aboveground pools which use the skimmer as a suction outlet).
Since there can be a strong suction pull at the main drain, for
swimmer protection it must be equipped with a correctly
installed, anti-entrapment and anti-hair-entanglement certified
cover, fastened with screws.
A box set into the edge of the pool with mouth open to the pool,
just at water level. It connects to the main circulating pump
suction pipe. It both channels water to the pump and skims
leaves, debris, etc., off the pool surface. A removable deck
cover allows for cleaning.
Outlet: Any fitting that allows water to go back from
the pool to the main circulating pump (in other words, any pool
fitting on the end of the pump’s suction line).
Connecting together all the metal items (ladders, diving platforms,
pumps, etc.) around a pool or spa with a heavy wire (the
"bonding wire"), so that there can be no difference in
voltage between them. This helps prevent electrical shocks from pool
Ground Fault Circuit
Interrupter (GFCI): A device to interrupt the power
supply to a piece of equipment when it senses very small electrical
leaks to the ground or to the pool water. It will cut off power in
dangerous circumstances which might not cause a circuit breaker to
trip or a fuse to blow.
Connecting each piece of electrical equipment around the pool to a
"ground wire" which is connected to the electrical system
ground at the circuit breaker box. Grounding your equipment helps to
ensure that the circuit breaker will trip and cut off power in the
event of a short circuit or damage to insulation.
A reference book for individual items of equipment, including
instructions for installation, operation and repair. It usually
includes a list of available repair parts.
A tank used with a DE filter during the backwash cycle of the
filter. It collects backwashed DE and debris, allowing the water to
return to the pool.
Routine Equipment Safety
- Is there a complete, readable Owner’s
Manual kept handy for each piece of equipment?
- Are Skimmer Deck Covers NSF Certified and
all Suction Fittings and Main Drain Outlet Covers IAPMO
certified as anti-entrapment and anti-hair-entanglement?
- Are Skimmer Deck Covers and Main Drain
Outlet Covers in place and screwed down?
- Are Skimmer Deck Covers and Main Drain
Outlet Covers deteriorated, cracked, or weathered? If so,
replace them. (On outdoor pools, all Plastic Skimmer or Drain
Covers should be replaced every 3-4 years, especially in the
- Are Skimmer Baskets clean and in place?
- Are Filter Tank Clamps and Bolts in place,
in good physical condition, and correctly tightened? (Don’t
try to adjust clamps while the filter is under pressure.)
- Are Filter Tank O-Rings sealing properly?
- Are Filter Tank Pressure Gauge and Air
Release Valve in place and working?
- Is Pool Heater area clear of leaves,
flammable material, and debris?
- Are Heater, Vent Pipe, and Gas Line in good
- Is the entire Pool area free of any smell
- Is all visible Electrical Equipment and
Wiring (including pool lights and niches) in good physical
- Do Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
(GFCIs) test OK? (Most GFCIs have a "test" button; see
the instructions with the GFCI.)
- Are Motors, Equipment Rooms, etc., clear of
leaves, debris, and combustibles?
Pump Suction - from the main
Your pool or spa’s main circulating pump
pulls in water by means of a strong vacuum through the main drain.
The vacuum is so strong that anyone lying on an 8" diameter
main drain while the pump is running could be held down on the drain
by a force of up to seven hundred pounds (that’s right, 700
pounds). This is enough force to trap adults or children underwater,
or even to eviscerate them. Stay off the main drain!
Have your pool professional examine your pool
or spa for the following points:
- There must be at least two suction outlets
from the pool to the main circulating pump. Each outlet must
have a cover fastened down with screws. Either one of these
outlets should be able to supply the pump by itself without
exceeding the flow rating of its cover. (Many above-ground pools
use the skimmer as the suction outlet and have no main drain;
these pools don’t require a second suction outlet.) Read the
pump owners manual for flow requirements for your installation.
- All suction outlet covers (for instance,
grates, anti-vortex covers, etc.) must be designed so that they
won’t trap body parts or hair, and must be certified by a
nationally recognized testing laboratory. Plastic deck and drain
covers may deteriorate and crack or break from exposure to
sunlight or weather. Routinely replace them every 3-4 years.
- An emergency shut-off switch for the pool
circulation pump and the spa jet pump should be in an easily
accessible, obvious place near the pool or spa. Bathers should
know where it is and how to use it. Use the switch in case of
- Most pool cleaners and all pool vacuums use
the pump suction to clean the pool. Because of the strength of
the suction and the possibility of entrapment underwater, keep
everyone out of the pool during cleaning or vacuuming. Read the
cleaner or vacuum owner’s manual for safe operating
information. Never play with the pool cleaner, the vacuum, or
their hoses — they are not toys.
Compressed air trapped in the
Water under pressure doesn’t present much of
a hazard. But the piping and filtering systems on pools and spas can
trap and hold large bubbles of air until they build up enough
explosive potential to blow the tops off of filters, strainers, and
separation tanks. The owner’s manual for your filter, separation
tank, and pump will tell you how to safely bleed the air out of your
filter system. For safety’s sake, review the following points:
- Read the owner’s manual carefully
to learn how to operate your filter system safely. Never
try to adjust or service your pool or spa filter unless you have
read the owner’s manual and understand how to release all
pressure from the system (shut off the power and release the
- When starting up the system after a period
of non-use (for instance, after a winter shut-down), read the start-up
instructions in the owner’s manuals for the equipment
involved so that you can purge all the air from the system
before it builds up to dangerous pressures.
- Never connect your pool or spa filter
system to a household water system —the pool equipment is
designed to run at much lower pressures and may split or burst
if subjected to household water system pressures.
- To avoid a dangerous pressure buildup in
the filter, make sure that any shutoff valves downstream of the
filter always remain open during system operation.
Fire, explosion, or
asphyxiation from a gas fired pool heater
LP gas (Propane) and natural gas are safe
fuels as long as they are used correctly. Read your heater owner’s
manual carefully, and remember that gas heaters require a trained
technician for service and repair. Remember that gas is highly
flammable, and that LP gas is heavier than air — it will collect
in low spots.
If you suspect a gas leak or smell gas,
immediately clear the area and call the gas company from a telephone
that is away from the area of the suspected leak. If you
suspect a problem with your heater, don’t take chances by trying
to fix it yourself - call your heater professional or the local
gas company. Have your heater professional verify these points
about your installation:
- Make sure that there is no leakage of
exhaust gases into any building. This is especially important if
the heater is installed indoors. Improper venting or damaged or
rusted-out venting can cause serious injuries, illness, or death
from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Your installation should comply with the
requirements of the local and national codes that apply.
- The heater exhaust vents should be located
away from windows, air conditioners, or roof overhangs so that
exhaust gases (which are poisonous) will not enter any buildings
in the area. Check with your local building inspector for
regulations concerning the location of heater exhaust relative
- If your heater is located indoors, review
the venting information in the heater owner’s manual and,
again, make sure that all vent pipes, air intakes, gas line
installations, etc., meet all local and national code
Mixing electricity and water is always
hazardous. In a pool or spa situation, underwater lights, deck
lights, the motor on the circulating pump, or any other accessory
requiring electricity may pose a safety threat to people in the
water if the wiring is incorrect or faulty. Read the owner’s
manual for each piece of equipment to get information about
electrical requirements. To make sure your pool or spa is
electrically safe, ask your pool builder or professional service
person to verify these points:
- Ground Fault
Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs): The power supply
circuit for each piece of electrical equipment should include a
GFCI for protection against tiny - but dangerous - leaks of
electricity to ground (‘ground faults’). If these tiny
ground faults travel through the human body, they can damage the
nerves controlling the heart and cause cardiac arrest (heart
failure). A GFCI will sense ground faults and disconnect the
power supply. This protects you from a dangerous and possibly
fatal electrical shock.
All electrical equipment and wiring must meet the requirements
of the local and national codes which apply.
- Grounding and
Bonding: All electrical equipment must be grounded.
All metal objects (ladders, diving platforms, etc.) must be
electrically bonded together.
- Extension cords:
Never use extension cords around a pool or spa. If they get wet,
it’s an invitation to a shock - possibly a fatal
We hope you enjoy the relaxation of your pool
and spa. Remember that these safety tips — and a good knowledge of
your equipment (read your owner’s manuals!) — can enhance the
fun of a swimming pool or the warm, relaxing effects of a spa. Your
enjoyment will be increased by knowing that your equipment is
well-maintained and safe.
While the suggestions outlined on this page
will make pool and spa use safer and more enjoyable, no one can
guarantee that accidents will not happen.
The precautions outlined on this page cover
only the basics. This page is not intended to replace instructions
you receive from your owner’s manuals or pool professional.
By using a little common sense, taking proper
safety precautions and having your pool professional do regular
maintenance and safety inspections, your pool and spa mechanical
equipment should provide trouble-free enjoyment for years to come.
Pools and Sta-Rite industries,
we wish you the best in swimming!
The information on
this page is provided through the courtesy of Sta-Rite Industries,
Inc., in the interest of promoting swimming pool safety.