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Swimming Pool Electric Shock

I don’t know how to write this one. Swimming pool electrocution is a life and death topic, and I know people understand this. The challenge is in getting people to treat the warning signs with the same gravity. In fact, it surprises me the lack of grimness swimming pool electric shock carries. That’s the speedbump.

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Sat, Apr 2, 2016 – Page A12 · The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California) ·

Swimming Pool Electric Shock.

Getting zapped while swimming is not often looked at for what it is – a warning. Quite possibly, your final warning. It doesn’t have to be a ‘finger in a light socket’ jolt. A bather can detect a stray charge as an odd tightening of the muscles or even a strange tingling. So yes, there are probably some recognition issues involved in the lack to react. It is often blatant, and the tendency to minimize the threat is too large a percentage of the norm.


In the last decade alone, there have been over 47 shock-related incidents involving injury or death in the U.S. alone.

It is alarming the number of individuals, mostly pool owners, that have asked me in the last five or so years if feeling a ‘tingling’ while swimming is normal. Or, even more egregious, that ‘someone’ has come out to look at the pool, cannot find the problem, and tells the homeowner not to worry. This forces the danger of a potential stray charge poolside into the category of largely ignored.

Fri, Nov 17, 1967 – 1 · Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) ·

Outreach saves lives!

This is scary stuff. I’m sure a few, not the majority of the folks reading this have snide thoughts Darwinism – just don’t; it’s not cool. Instead, a better human being would take action and work toward educating pool owners of the level of danger that accompanies that warning. Something as simple as sharing this article could easily result in saving a life. I’m not looking for the like in putting this FB button here; however, I hope you will share. [fblike]

We have been told our entire lives to keep electricity away from water. It only makes sense that we would dig a giant hole in our backyard, fill it with water, and then hook electrical items to it. This is no joke – AC-powered equipment offers little danger when installed by a professional who is licensed, insured, and qualified to do so.

Pool lights, equipment, outlets installed too close to the pool wall, overhead electrical wires, and any appliances on the pool deck could easily supply that stray charge. However, in a pool that is properly bonded and built to code, there is little threat. Unfortunately, things do go wrong, and minor oversights can lead to calamitous consequences.

Do not string electrical wires above the pool in any circumstance, not ever.

As a pool owner, you do have a responsibility to not only educate yourself but to ensure your children know what to look for as well. Just as you would not have a pool and not have your children enrolled in swimming lessons, you should not have a pool if you are not going to discuss the dangers of electricity and water and review both the warning signs of a stray charge as well as an action plan should it be detected.

Sat, Aug 9, 1986 – Page 21 · Florida Today (Cocoa, Florida) ·

Just because I see the potential for that statement to go sideways, I am not saying that the threat is statistically at the same level as drowning. I am stating that if you have a body of water with electrical things attached – the threat exists. Also, a ten-minute conversation on warning signs that is reinforced periodically can only be beneficial.

Warning Signs for bather.

  • Tingling sensation.
  • Muscle tightening or cramping.
  • Sudden loss of mobility.

Action plan for bather.

  • Get out of the water.
    • Do NOT use or touch the ladder, handrail, or any metal fixture.

Action plan for onlooker.

  • Shut off the breaker.
    • Don’t ‘dive into the rescue’ if there is still electricity to the pool.
      • I know – I came back to add this one.
  • Call 911.

Following the shock incident.

  • Breaker stays off & people stay out of the water until an electrician familiar with swimming pools and pool equipment has resolved the issue.

An example of what not to do.

This next account is the perfect example of what not to do, and I had the unfortunate pleasure of being onsite to witness it. I could have left before it had run its course, but you know that expression ‘it was like a train wreck’?

I was about halfway through my route for the day. It was all commercial pools, primarily student housing facilities. The rain had just come to a stop. It was still grey overhead, so the ground had not yet started to steam or kick the humidity into overdrive—the joy of a Florida shower in August.

Next up was a two pool facility. It was the typical one immediately behind the leasing office and the other that everyone used. The deck was still wet. I took the test block from my kit and plunged it into the water, but as soon as my hand hit the water, I could feel a jolt up my arm like a pinched nerve.

I got zapped!

I just figured I must have pulled something loading or unloading the self-contained vac onto the hitch. Okay, no biggie, I can deal. I go to collect my water sample again. You know, the whole eighteen inches below the surface thing.

Mother Father! It happens again. This time I know exactly what is going on. I do not have a doubt. I just got a shock. A little embarrassed, it took twice before it clicked.

The main breaker to off. I locked both gates to the barrier and affixed pool closed signs with zip ties to the chain link. From there, I would hunt down the CAM (community association manager), explain the details, and direct the woman to contact an electrician that was familiar with swimming pools and pool equipment. She took me extremely seriously, but the housing facility manager had a different remedy in mind.

Help is on the way.

Two maintenance techs answered the radio call and were en route to the pool area. I headed back that way to remove my locks so they could gain access. I saw them walking toward me, a tall thin guy and another who was quite a bit overweight. It is not really important to the story, but I remember thinking that they looked like the number ten when they stood side by side.

It seemed that they already had a plan in place as the big guy went directly down into the O/S cinderblock Hannibal Lecter style pump room. Stretch went and stood by the pool. I could see the one in the pump room flip all the breakers on the panel off. He shouted out to Slim, who stood up onto the raised beam and seemed to ready himself.


I could hear the main breaker’s chunk as power was returned to the panel – This is the part where OSHA would have stroked out. Another shout from the pump room, and the skinny guy grabbed hold of the SS ladder firmly with one hand and leaned forward far enough to stick the index finger of his free hand into the water.

Seeing the thin man in position, the big one flipped a breaker. Then another and another. It was somewhere around the fifth or sixth switch before the tech with his hand in the pool screamed out he’d been shocked. There are definitely safer methods of locating the source of a stray charge.

Don’t Swim with Shocks: Electrical Safety In and Around Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs |


Rudy Stankowitz is a 30-year veteran of the swimming pool industry and President/CEO of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants