Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert
Several years ago, hotels began constructing indoor/outdoor pools with a connecting “swim-through” channel so that guests could swim from the indoor pool, through a channel into the outdoor pool. While this concept was unique, interesting, and attractive, it had several significant design flaws. Most important to this case, when built in the northern climates above the Mason-Dixon line, during the winter months the cold water in the outdoor pool would infiltrate and chill the water in the indoor pool through the channel. Because both pools were connected, and on the same circulation system, one pool could not be drained without draining the other.
In this particular case, in order to prevent cold water from the outdoor pool entering the indoor pool, the hotel added a clear glass wall underwater in the channel to stop the flow of water between the two connecting pools. This design was recognized by all as a “swim through” pool channel.
A young man attempted to swim to the outdoor pool from the indoor pool and struck his head on the clear glass wall, breaking his neck. The hotel only placed white tape on the glass, and a small 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper hung above the channel banning swimming through. The hotel could have, and should have, placed a pull-down garage type door to close off the channel that certainly would have been detected by swimmers. Additionally, they should have had warning signs using warning shapes and colors at the front registration desk as well as in the swimming pool area.
The hotel paid a significant sum to the injured boy because not only did they create the hazard, but they failed to warn swimmers effectively.
Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.