Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert ::::
Case Synopsis: A high school Senior participated on a Senior class rafting trip approximately two hours away from the school. Because he was a non-swimmer his father refused to sign the permission slip to go on the field trip. The victim wanted to go badly because his friends were going, so he forged his father’s signature and as a result, the school allowed him to attend. Although the weather was sunny and warm, the river was extremely high and fast due to heavy rains earlier in the week. All six participants in the victim’s raft removed their lifejackets shortly after launching. Soon after removing their lifejackets, the raft rode up the face of a large standing wave and all six students were ejected into the raging river. All students managed to get to shore safely except for the victim who was found dead several days later. The cause of his death was drowning.
Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic / Water Safety Expert::::
For the past quarter century, high diving boards (3-meters; ten feet) have been disappearing from public and private swimming pools across the country. This swimming pool staple, which so many middle aged and older Americans learned to love while they were children, is no longer available for their children and grandchildren.
Statistics indicate that springboard diving is a very safe sport. That is because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), USA diving and many other water safety agencies have safety training programs for their coaches and follow strict depth and distance requirements to provide safe “diving envelopes” in the water for divers/jumpers. So what’s the problem?
Far too many three-meter (high dives) were placed in recreational settings without the assistance of qualified coaches and springboard diving agencies. Consequently, numerous falls to unprotected concrete decks below have occurred around the country resulting in death or paralysis. Hence, high dives are quickly becoming dinosaurs.
Thomas J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
A young mother took her two children to a family leisure pool with water slides at an aquatic facility. According to her testimony, after taking a few successful slides down a large, fast waterslide, the woman asked the lifeguard on duty if she could go down the waterslide laying on her stomach. Although her testimony was that the lifeguard said she could go down the slide in this inappropriate and unsafe manner, the lifeguard on duty denied it. There were large, visible signs posted at the slide, which clearly stated that all riders should be seated in an upright position or laying down on their backs; all other riding positions were prohibited. Because the woman slid down the slide blindly, with her face towards the flume, she was unable to see when she would be discharged into the shallow water, and therefore could not properly prepare for impact by flexing her knees. Due to her blind and dangerous backward position, she severely injured her foot and ankle. This lawsuit went to trial and the jury deliberated for approximately ten minutes and rendered a verdict for the defense.
Lessons learned: Waterslides are designed for safety. With lifeguards positioned both at the top and the bottom of each slide, they are typically very safe. Most slide injuries are caused by rider misbehavior. Perhaps the most significant finding in this case was the woman signed a waiver prior to entering the waterpark releasing the aquatic facility of responsibility if she became injured during her use of the facility.
Verdict for the defense.
Thomas J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant with DJS Associates, can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.
Who can predict what kids will or won’t pay attention to? Along with my wife, I helped to raise four children, now all in their 20s, and each one of them approaches life differently. Predicting what they will pay attention to and how they will act was (and still is!) impossible. But that knowledge doesn’t stop Clarion from creating safety signage for places, like pools and beaches, where children will be present.
A couple of years ago, working alongside Dr. Tom Griffiths of the Aquatic Safety Research Group, we designed a set of pool safety signs that prominently display colorful ISO-formatted safety symbols. The goal of the symbols was, first and foremost, to catch the attention of people, adults and children alike. It’s sort of obvious to state, but a safety sign is useless if it goes unnoticed. And THAT is the situation with the vast majority of aquatic safety signage in use today. Typically these signs are nothing more than “list of rules” that use only words, no symbols. People – adults and children – walk right by them, not giving them the time of day. My guess is that everyone that enters these environments has other things on their mind and it, quite literally, takes too much time to read these signs, so no heed is paid to them.