Electrical Hazards in Pools

Electrical Hazards In Pools That Kill

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Electrical Hazards in Pools That Kill

Most buyers or homeowners are not aware of the many electrical hazards in pools that can kill or seriously injure those swimming in the pool. What starts off as a day of fun can easily end in tragedy. Various issues from lack of bonding to gfis can be attributed to deaths that could have been prevented if the pool owners had been educated on the safety necessary for their pool or spa.

Swimmers Beware of Faulty Pool Lights

Below are various articles on death and injury caused by electrical hazards associated with the swimming pool.

May 17, 1992|GEORGE ANCHALES | Anchales is chief electrical inspector for San Bernardino County’s Building and Safety Department.  In the last several years, seven people in California, Texas and Louisiana have been electrocuted by faulty underwater swimming pool lighting systems. I don’t doubt that lives in other states have been claimed by obsolete underwater lighting systems. These systems have been constructed in varying degrees of code conformity, and they deteriorate and corrode with time.

The immediate cause of the six electrocutions appeared to be current leakage out of an improperly grounded fixture. It would be unwise not to assume this type of problem will recur.

I have been on a three-year crusade to make the public aware of the increasing possibility of electrocution from older swimming pools. The adage “things get better with age” may be true about antique cars and furniture, but it’s not true about older swimming pool light fixtures.

Cities and counties are required by the State of California to enforce the latest edition of the National Electrical Code. Local building inspectors check all new electrical installations for compliance with the NEC.  The NEC’s purpose is to protect people from hazards arising from the use of electricity. The code is amended every three years and it has adapted over time to the problems that arise in swimming pools.

The problems I am calling attention to concern old installations that do not meet current NEC requirements, and the inconsistent application of the NEC that sometimes occurs at the time of installation.

Underwater light fixtures installed under the 1972 or earlier NEC are a potential source of electrocution. These older fixtures are subject not only to questionable original installation but also improper maintenance and the aging processes of time and corrosion.

They also lack a device that prevents electrocution called a ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI for short. Installed in the circuit supplying the light, the GFCI constantly monitors the flow of electricity out the “hot” wire and that flowing back through the return “neutral” wire to “sense” any loss of current. If the flow differs by 4 to 6 milliamps, the device instantly cuts off power to the fixture.

It will also switch off the power if it senses that current (less than that needed for a night light) is escaping to ground through the pool water and not returning through the neutral wire, thus protecting against what could be a lethal dose of electricity.

Electrocutions can be prevented by proper maintenance and the installation, by qualified people, of new light fixtures protected by GFCI devices.

The NEC did not address swimming pools until 1962. From then until the 1975 edition of the code, GFCI protection was only optional. Consequently thousands of underwater light fixtures were installed without GFCI protection. These older electrical systems pose a serious hazard after years of exposure to chlorinated water.

The 1975 NEC was the first to mandate GFCI protection of underwater light fixtures operating at more than 15 volts, and all editions since then have included it. Thus all systems installed under the NEC after that are designed with GFCI protection to assure there is no shock hazard under any condition.

There are other inherent problems with these older pools:

–Obsolete Underwater Light Fixtures. Fixtures installed before the 1965 NEC are considered hazardous and obsolete due to leakage of current from the fixture. Since 1965, electrical connections within the fixture are required to be encapsulated to eliminate leakage currents in the event pool water enters the fixture.

–Flush Deck Junction Boxes. Since the 1971 NEC, flush deck junction boxes have been reserved for applications of only 15 volts or less, and then only when filled with an approved potting compound and placed at least four feet from the edge of the pool. Many had been installed too close to the pool, most lacked the potting compound, some had broken cover gaskets and were deteriorated by pool water, and some contained 120/240-volt wiring for other systems within the same junction box.

–Lack of Qualified Electricians. Another common problem with most of these older installations is that unqualified people are doing the repairs. Improperly grounded light fixtures were common in all the recent fatalities.

–Non-GFCI Protected Receptacles. An additional hazard is the placing of non-GFCI protected, 125-volt receptacles within 20 feet of the inside wall of pools. These unprotected outlets only increase the likelihood of someone’s being electrocuted from appliances next to the swimming area.

The 1971 NEC required GFCI protection for receptacles between 10 and 15 feet from the pool. That was extended in the 1984 NEC to include all 125-volt receptacles within 20 feet of the pool.

 

Daily Mail | 3/20015

Three children, aged 10, six and five, suffered electric shocks in the apartment complex pool in Florida last month.  A video shows their bodies falling limp and slipping beneath the water’s surface before they are saved by adults.  All three children spent four days in hospital

Inspectors said that it was due to faulty wiring of the pool pump
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2636443/Video-shows-terrifying-moment-three-children-suffered-electric-shocks-touching-metal-railing-pool.html#ixzz3WjWGc2tG
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HOUSTON CHRONICLE | November 8, 2013

Shoddy work by two electricians led to the death of a man at a west Houston hotel swimming pool, police said.

Violations of Code for Pool Electrical Safety

An investigation by police, the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation also determined the wiring to the pool light lacked a ground fault circuit interrupter that would have immediately cut off the current in the event of a shock, officials said. The pool also lacked proper bonding, police said. Both are violations of the National Electric Code.

HOUSTON CHRONICLE | November 8, 2013

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