Being Liability Smart for Your Backyard Pool Party

When you invite people to swim in your pool, you are responsible for them, and as such, there are a few things you should know to keep everyone safe and happy - and it all starts with understanding your liability.

Whether you actually have a backyard pool or just have Clark Griswold-esque dreams of having one, chances are one of the things you like best about life poolside is inviting family and friends over to splash, swim, and lounge.

This is a noble reason, but don’t let your daydreaming blind you to the real implications of letting other people dip their toes in your little oasis. 

Backyard Pool Liability

Believe it or not, homeowners can be held liable for injuries or deaths in their pool even if someone trespassed onto your property. This is a pretty sobering thought. You don’t even have to have given someone permission to be there, and you can still get in trouble.

The key to covering your bases comes down to doing everything in your power to ensure your pool is a safe place. In other words, you have to avoid being negligent (i.e. not doing what any other reasonable person would do in the same situation). So, you have to make sure the pool and the area around your pool is secure and in good repair.

Here’s how you can do that.

Fence it in.

And make sure the fence is self-closing and self-latching. Many accidental drowning deaths of children are caused by them wandering into a neighbor’s backyard and drowning in the pool. If you don’t have a gate, or if that gate was left open or not closed properly, you’re liable .

Rule the day.

Your pool, your rules. If your pool is not deep enough to dive in (which few backyard pools are), then establish a ‘feet first’ jumping rule.

If you have a diving board, only one person should be on it at a time.

Make it clear that children are not allowed to swim alone, and anyone who is not a competent swimmer (child or adult) must wear a lifejacket or PFD. Make sure you have these on hand for guests.

Do not permit glass bottles or cups around the pool.

Keep the deck clear of obstacles (like toys).

Also, don’t leave children unattended in the pool. If you have to go in the house – even for a moment – the kids come with you unless there is another adult there who is a competent swimmer.

Get certified.

As the owner of a backyard pool, getting your first aid and CPR certification is not just handy, it’s essential if you want to make sure you’re not liable. It is also a good idea to have your children trained in first aid and CPR, and you should also enroll them in swimming lessons.

Throw it out there.

Make sure you have a lifesaver on deck, and that you also have – and let everyone else know about – an action plan in case of emergency. This includes having a first aid kit within easy reach of the pool area (and making sure everyone knows where it is), ensuring a phone is readily available and establishing an emergency signal if someone is hurt or a situation arises where you need to get people’s attention.

Lay off the sauce.

While coolers and warm days are synonymous for many, if you want to make sure you won’t be found negligent in the event of an accident, don’t use – or allow use of – alcohol (or any drug) around or in the pool. Drinking while swimming drastically increases the likelihood of drowning, so put a cork in it until you’re done swimming for the day.

Dump or lift.

If you have a kiddie pool, make sure it is dumped out after each use to avoid accidental drowning when you are not around. If you have a larger pool, have the ladder removed or steps blocked when no one is swimming.

Heed the weather.

Don’t swim during storms or when it is raining since these are times when accidents (e.g. slipping, being struck by lightning) are more likely to happen.

Play while the sun shines.

You also don’t want to allow anyone to swim at night since visibility is compromised.

Hot tub use.

Hot tubs are not recommended for children, infants, and pregnant women and the hot tub temperature should not be above 104° F or 40° C.

This list of guidelines may seem prohibitive, but will probably seem less so in light of the consequences if they are not followed, like facing an injury, a lawsuit and/or a death. Staying accountable is the key to keeping everyone safe and to ensuring years of happy splashing.