An electric shock is an often overlooked threat to swimmers, a safety expert warns.
“Electric shock drowning can occur in any fresh body of water,” said Donald Burke, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Advanced Safety and Engineering Management program.
“Anywhere you may have an electrical device that has faulty or damaged wiring and equipment can cause the body of water to become energized. Then, when the human body comes into contact with that energized body of water, it overwhelms our body’s natural electrical signals that control our muscles,” he explained in a university news release.
Depending on the level of electrical current, a person could experience anything from tingling to paralysis and cardiac arrest. A swimmer can even be electrocuted, Burke said.
When adding electricity to structures near fresh water, always follow recommended safety measures and conduct regular safety checks, he said.
“Most importantly, you want to be sure you hire a certified electrician who is certified to American Boat and Yacht Council standards and who will know how to install all the wiring to code,” Burke said. “You should also work with your certified electrician to add devices that will lessen the likelihood of electric shock.”
If you have your own pool, always check the qualifications of anyone you hire to work on it, Burke added.
“Make sure that a certified electrician is performing the inspections and maintenance on your electrical components — pool lighting, pool pumps — any of those devices could lead to electric shock if not properly installed and repaired,” he said. “Remember that a pool technician may not necessarily be a certified electrician.”
If you use a community pool, find out if these same safety measures are being taken.
In North Carolina, a 17-year-old lifeguard drowned in 2016 when she was shocked by electrically charged water. Investigators blamed a faulty grounding wire in a pool electrical system that had not been inspected for years.
The American Red Cross has more on water safety.