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Tips on Preventing Swimming Pool Electrocution

Tips & Definitions from George Brazil

If you’re an Arizona homeowner, you likely have a pool you’re thankful for during warmer weather.

But swimming pool electrocution is something every family should be aware of. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 14 deaths related to electrocution in swimming pools from 2003 to 2014.

So what’s causing swimming pool electrocution?

According to the CPSC, the following are some situations that can lead to electrical shock in the swimming pool:

  • Old electrical wiring
  • Outdoor appliances that aren’t grounded
  • Electrical appliances/extension cords coming into contact with pool water

Let’s take a closer look at these three situations, why they’re so dangerous and how to avoid them.

Note: For a comprehensive list of ways to prevent swimming pool shock, check out this graphic from the CPSC.


3 main causes of swimming pool shock (and how to avoid them)

1. Old electrical wiring

If you aren’t sure when your pool was wired, the electrical system might be out of date and not consistent with the National Electric Code. Additionally, if the pool was wired years ago and hasn’t been inspected since, the wire insulation may be deteriorated or damaged.

In both situations, there is an increased risk of high levels of voltage leaking from old wiring, which could reach your body or the pool water.

How to avoid this: If you aren’t sure if your pool’s wiring is “old” or not, we don’t suggest waiting until you notice signs of faulty wiring (burning smell, flickering lights, tripped circuit breakers, etc.).

The safest rule of thumb: If you weren’t around when your pool was wired, hire an electrician to inspect the electrical system. Be sure that they specifically check all wiring for underwater lighting, such as step lights, as this is a common culprit of pool electrocution.

An electrician will make sure that all wiring is in good shape and is up-to-code. If it’s not, they’ll be able to upgrade your wiring system to keep your pool safe.

2. Outdoor electrical appliances aren’t grounded

All electrical appliances, but especially outdoor appliances, should be grounded. Period. If an appliance is grounded, it means they have a “ground” wire installed that connects directly into the earth.

Why is this so important? Well, any appliance that becomes damaged and isn’t grounded can cause electricity to flow to the outside of the appliance. And if that appliance comes into contact with the pool water, it creates an electrically charged (and deadly) swimming pool.

How to avoid this: Ensure that all outdoor equipment is properly grounded by having a professional electrician test each device separately with a ground testing tool. If any are not properly grounded, the electrician can rewire the device and install a ground wire.

3. Electrical appliances/extension cords coming into contact with pool water

It’s common knowledge that submerging appliances into water, even if they’re off or unplugged, can cause a deathly shock.

But that doesn’t stop most homeowners from placing TV’s, radios and other electrical equipment dangerously close to the pool, where they could easily come in contact with the water and cause electric shock.

How to avoid this: 

1. First and foremost, all electrical cords should be kept a safe distance of at least 5 feet away from the water.

2. Secondly, make sure that you plug all outdoor appliances into GFCI outlets and ensure that all outlets have weatherproof outdoor covers, to protect from rain, splashing, etc. Note: Make sure all outdoor GFCI outlets have a WR label (Weather Resistant) and that all outdoor covers have “While-in-Use” labels.

GFCI, or ground-fault circuit interrupters, automatically cut electrical power to an appliance when it senses that the electrical current flowing through the outlet/device is “leaking”.

In other words, a tiny sensor inside the outlet, detects when the electrical current has found an unintended route (that is, through water or a person).

These outlets are considered the “best safety device to prevent electrocution” by the CPSC because they shut off in less than 1/30 of a second to prevent electrocution.

3. Test your GFCI outlets regularly. We suggest checking your GFCI outlets at least monthly to ensure that they are working properly. But if the outlet isn’t frequently used, you need to test the outlet before each day’s use. Not sure how to test a GFCI outlet? Here’s a great video that walks you through the steps. If your GFCI outlet isn’t working properly, contact a licensed electrician immediately and do not use the outlet.

Next step: Have an AZ electrician inspect your outdoor electrical appliances

Have questions about the safety of your pool? Don’t wait.

Schedule your appointment with us today.

Our certified electricians can inspect and upgrade your outdoor appliances to be consistent with the National Electric Code for safer swimming!

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