Swimming pool electrical safety: Why it is always essential

If, as the saying goes, swimming really is as easy as H2O, keeping your pool safe from hidden electrical hazards for swimmers and frolickers can be just as simple.

It starts with an annual electrical inspection of your pool and all its working parts to ensure that life-saving devices like ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and all grounding and bonding systems are working properly.

Those inspections are even more relevant with pool, hot tub and spa owners and their families at home to potentially use them more because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they do come with a caveat.

“Electrical inspections of pools, hot tubs and spas should only be done by a licensed electrician or pool contractor,” said Andrew Martinez, vice president of Safety, Security and Business Resiliency at Southern California Edison. “They should never be done by unlicensed cleaning crews or the pool owners themselves.”

Qualified electricians and pool contractors will inspect and, where needed, replace or upgrade electrical devices and equipment to keep your pool safe from electricity and prevent serious injuries and the 33 reported electrocutions that the Consumer Product Safety Commission says have occurred in pools and spas since 2002.

With swimming pools and hot tubs bringing water and electricity close together, licensed professionals can tackle three of the biggest threats, especially in older pools, to the safety of their occupants — faulty underwater lighting, faulty or nonexistent GFCIs and damaged wiring.

Underwater lighting that flickers, buzzes or has collected mold and rust are as problematic as aging or corroded wires and a power system that is not well-grounded. These risks are only heightened if lighting and circuits aren’t protected by working GFCIs, which should also be on pumps and heaters and all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge to protect people from shocks.

“Licensed electricians and pool contractors will not only ensure your equipment, also including junction boxes, are properly and safely installed,” said Martinez. “They will make upgrades to comply with applicable local codes and the National Electrical Code.”

As for other hazards outside the water, permanent or storable pools should not be built or set up underneath power lines. If this exists, there are clearance requirements and pool owners should consult SCE’s Local Planning at 800-655-4555 or their local inspection agency.

Electronic appliances and devices are also strongly discouraged around pools and spas and should be kept at least 20 to 30 feet away from the water’s edge

“Pool, hot tub and spa electrical accidents are 100% preventable with inspections by licensed professionals in addition to awareness by those enjoying them,” said Martinez. “We strongly encourage our customers to practice both to enjoy them safely this summer.”

Additional pool, hot tub and spa electrical safety tips include:

  • Downgrade 110-volt or higher pool lighting to 12-volt LED lighting to drastically reduce risk.
  • Never string lights above or near swimming pools.
  • Carry long-handled cleaning tools horizontally and stay at least 10 feet away from power lines.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while in the water, exit as quickly as possible, avoiding metal ladders and rails.
  • Power switches should be labeled so they can be turned off quickly in an emergency.
  • Rescuers should not enter the water until power is turned off.

This article was written by Paul Netter, Energized by Edison Writer.