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5 Things to Consider When Hosting Guests at Your Backyard Pool

For those fortunate enough to have a backyard pool, hosting guests to cool off with a leisurely swim on a hot day is one of the joys of summer. However, with pool ownership comes responsibility. Under the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act, the owner of a backyard pool is responsible for maintaining a reasonable standard of safety for their guests, and may be liable should someone sustain an injury on their property.

Pool safety is of vital importance. Every year, there are over 200 drownings across Canada, with more than 55% of them occurring in swimming pools. Of these, more than half are children under the age of 4. 

Children may fall into the water while unattended, or under the care of distracted adults, which is particularly dangerous at an age when a child may not yet know how to swim. Swimming while alone is likewise a common factor in drowning deaths across Canada. Among adults, the consumption of alcohol often contributes to poor judgment and reduced swimming ability.

In addition to drownings, accidents in backyard swimming pools may include slip and falls on the deck, or traumatic brain injuries suffered from diving into inappropriate depths of water. 

There are laws and guidelines in place to make sure owners of backyard pools maintain safety standards that might prevent accidents altogether. If you own or manage a backyard swimming pool, you may want to acquaint yourself with Bill 74, Swimming Pool Safety Act, and make sure your space is set up in accordance.

Here are a few things you may want to consider when hosting guests at your backyard pool this summer:

1. Follow the Pool & Hot Tub Council of Canada’s Guidelines

Make sure your pool has been built in accordance with the Pool & Hot Tub Council of Canada (PHTCC) guidelines. This includes rules about water circulation, heating, and the materials used in various components of the pool. Notably, a pool built in accordance to PHTCC guidelines should contain:

  • An entry and exit from the pool on the shallow side.
  • If the pool is longer than 29.5 feet, an entry and exit on both sides of the deep end.
  • A hand-hold above the water line where a pool exceeds 4 feet in depth.
  • Regulation drain covers, designed to avoid clothing from being caught.

2. Install a Gated Fence and Put Up Signage

Install a gated fence around your in-ground swimming pool. This is required by law under Ontario’s Swimming Pool Safety Act of 2006. A fence with a lockable gate can be essential to preventing children from wandering into the pool area unsupervised. 

Likewise, it may be of benefit to put up signage that indicates the presence and features of your pool. Marking where the deep end begins, for instance, as well as posting reminders for guests not to run on the slippery pool deck, or dive into the deep end, may help prevent potentially devastating accidents.

3. Provide Floatation Devices

Not everyone has equal levels of experience with swimming, and some individuals may hesitate to voice their discomfort. It can be helpful to provide floatation devices for your guests’ use – this may include pool noodles, floating mattresses, swimming boards, lifejackets, and more. As a social host, it may also be of benefit to maintain an atmosphere of welcoming all swimming abilities, so that no one feels pressured to risk their safety in order to appear more proficient in the water than they are.

4. Install a Pool Alarm

A pool alarm is a device that emits a warning sound when an unexpected object falls into the water. This may alert a pool owner of a child, pet, or adult guest falling in, and reduce the likelihood of drowning. Common types of pool alarms include: 

  • Standard entry alarms, which are triggered by a sudden disturbance of the water’s surface.
  • Gate alarms, which resound if a gate surrounding the pool is opened.
  • User entry alarms, in which a specific user (eg. a child) wears a wristband that, upon entering the pool, will trigger the alarm.

Pool alarms in Ontario are subject to regulation, and must meet the ASTM Standard F2208. Check with your alarm provider to make sure yours is in compliance.

5. Designate a Lifeguard

Especially when hosting a gathering of guests at your backyard pool, it may be a good idea to designate a responsible adult as a lifeguard during your event. They should be a proficient swimmer with a knowledge of first aid, and should abstain from consuming drugs or alcohol while on duty.

A designated lifeguard may be key to making sure all the swimmers in your pool are attended to should any accidents occur. If there is alcohol and/or cannabis being consumed at your gathering, both the host and the designated lifeguard should keep an eye on any guests who have either consumed significant amounts or are displaying signs of intoxication. Intoxicated guests should not be allowed into the pool, for their own safety and the safety of others. And, as a general rule, it may be in the host’s legal interests to look out for their guests’ consumption of intoxicants, in order to help prevent drunk driving accidents following a party.

Contact Our Injury Lawyers Today For A Free Consultation

If you require legal assistance on a premises liability matter in Ontario, or would like to discuss the specifics of a case concerning an accident in a backyard pool, call us today at 1-800-JUSTICE or contact us to schedule a free initial consultation. Our legal team has been providing legal services to residents of Ontario since 1959 and we would be pleased to help you get the compensation you deserve.

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