Skimmer box injuries

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What are skimmer boxes?

Skimmer boxes are connected to the suction pump of the swimming pool or spa’s filtration system.  The pump circulates the water which passes through the skimmer box.  The skimmer collects dirt, leaves and other material from the water.  Some old style skimmer boxes are open boxes which do not have a protective, fixed lid.  This style of box is termed ‘potty’ because it resembles a child’s potty or toilet.

Is there a Law or an Australian Standard for skimmer boxes?

A permanent ban on pools and spas with unsafe design features in Australia was declared on 1 February 2011 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).  The ‘potty’ style skimmer box cannot be supplied in Australia.1

How can children be injured as a result of their use?

Children may be trapped by the skimmer box and forced down by the pool suction pump if it does not have a protective lid. A child’s limbs, hair, hair accessory, jewellery, or swimsuit may become trapped and injuries can be sustained within a few seconds. This can result in major internal injuries including disembowelment by the strong suction formed after sitting in the potty-shaped skimmer box.

In most cases, due to the strong suction force, it is impossible to free the person. The only way to do this without causing severe injury is to turn off the pool filter pump.

How common are these injuries?

In the United States, from 1999 to 2011, 106 reports of circulation entrapments were made to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There were 12 injuries that resulted in death. The largest number of injuries were in home swimming pools. In total, 11 of the 12 deaths and 73% of injuries were in children under the age of 15 years.2

While it is known that skimmer boxes cause serious injuries in Australia, there are no published statistics currently available.

How can you tell if your skimmer box is safe?

Safe, new style skimmer boxes should have a permanent dome-shaped protective lid and a safety skirt so children cannot sit on the skimmer box.

Old or second hand pools may have the old style skimmer boxes, which need to be fitted with a permanent dome-shaped protective lid and a safety skirt.

If your skimmer box has a protective lid and safety skirt, make sure that they are securely fixed in place, not loose or damaged and can only be removed with the use of a tool.

How can you make your skimmer box safe?

If you own a pool with an old ‘potty’ style skimmer box, you should make sure your pool is safe by arranging for a permanent protective lid to be fixed to the filter inlet. Manufacturers or repairers of fiberglass pools should be able to carry out these repairs.

Also, your local swimming pool supplier may have a low cost conversion kit for the old style skimmer box.

If you are unsure of whether you have a safe skimmer box, it is best to contact a licensed professional to inspect your pool to determine whether your skimmer box is compliant.


Dangerous skimmer box

Dangerous skimmer box with no protective lid

Safe skimmer box

Safe modified skimmer box with a protective lid

Reproduced with kind permission from the Northern Territory Consumer Affairs-Department of Justice.


Remember:

  • Ensure your skimmer box has a permanent dome-shaped protective lid.
  • Make sure no one plays near or with any pool outlets, particularly children.
  • Make sure no one enters a pool that has a broken, loose or a missing skimmer box protective lid.
  • Know the location of the on/off switch for the pool filter pump in case an injury occurs.
  • Ensure that an approved CPR chart is displayed in the pool area.

References

1.  Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Pools and spas with unsafe design features. Product Safety Australia. [Online] 2011. [Cited: 3 November 2015.] https://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/975356

2.  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 1999-2011 Report on circulation/suction entrapment incidents associated with pools, spas and wirlpool bathtubs. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). [Online] 10 Nov 2015. http://www.poolsafely.gov/wp-content/uploads/entrap12.pdf