With the arrival of warmer weather, many families may be considering whether to purchase a swimming pool or trampoline to enhance summer fun. The purchase of either of these items should come with much thought, planning and consideration. Both swimming pools and trampolines can be considered "attractive nuisances" – an area or object on one's property that may draw children or others who cannot appreciate the risk of harm.
Swimming pools can be the source of countless hours of family fun and may provide healthy exercise. On the other hand, swimming pools, by virtue of the fact that water is involved, bring with them significant safety issues such as drowning and head injuries. One needs to consider whether such a purchase is safe for his or her own family. Further, when purchasing a swimming pool, the safety of others must be considered.
The State of Maine has regulations requiring specification for fencing around in-ground swimming pools. Many cities and towns have their own specifications with regard to fencing. Maine’s statute requiring the Enclosure of Swimming pools, Title 22 M.R.S.A. § 1631, defines a fence as:
"a good quality fence or wall not less than four feet in height above ground surface and of a character to exclude children. The fence shall be so constructed as to not have openings, holes or gaps larger than four square inches, except for fences constructed of vertical posts or louvers, in which case, the opening shall not be greater than four inches in width with no horizontal members between the top and bottom plates. Doors and gates are excluded from the minimum dimension requirements."
Section 1632 requires that a fence be erected and maintained around every swimming pool, except that portable, above-ground swimming pools with side walls of at least twenty-four inches in height are exempted. A dwelling house or accessory building may be used as part of the enclosure. All gates or doors opening through this enclosure shall be capable of being securely fastened at all times when not in actual use.
A fence serves to protect children from entering the swimming area without invitation. Even if a fence is installed, an owner of a swimming pool or potential purchaser of a swimming pool needs to consider whether they can provide adequate supervision for children and others at their home with a swimming pool. Sadly, each summer, we read about accidental deaths of children by drowning. Prior to installing a swimming pool, a person should contact his or her homeowner's insurance carrier to make insurance arrangements.
Trampolines are another backyard hazard. While trampolines may seem like loads of fun, they bring with them a huge risk for injuries ranging from broken bones to catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or death. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that that pediatricians counsel patients and families against the recreational use of trampolines.
Many people do not realize the severity of the potential injuries involved in trampolines since some may have a netted fence around them and a surface with some padding. However, when a person is propelled into the air and lands the wrong way, many tragic consequences may follow. Serious head and neck injuries may occur from falls or on the trampoline mat during failed tricks such as flips or somersaults.
Some people believe that having fencing around the trampoline prevents such injuries. However, even with netted fencing around the perimeter, injuries still occur. Injuries often occur when more than one person is on the trampoline with the smaller participants being much more likely to be injured.
Despite the substantial risk of catastrophic and even fatal injuries, should a person choose to purchase a trampoline for home use, he or she should make sure that there is a person who can adequately supervise activity on the trampoline, and that the trampoline is in an area adequately enclosed to prevent others from using it without invitation or supervision. Furthermore, a person who has a trampoline or is purchasing a trampoline should promptly inquire of his or her homeowner's insurance carrier as to whether there is coverage available for a home trampoline. Many homeowners' insurance carriers will not insure trampolines. If appropriate arrangements are not made to insure the trampoline, a homeowner could be without coverage for any injuries which could occur related to the trampoline. This could expose a homeowner’s personal assets and could also leave an injured person without means to recover for his or her medical damages even if life altering.
The purchase of a home swimming pool or trampoline should require extensive consideration and preparation. If either is to be purchased, family members should obtain any needed training to provide appropriate supervision and safety measures. The pool or trampoline should be enclosed to avoid persons using them without permission and supervision. Arrangements should be made to obtain appropriate insurance coverage to protect persons using the equipment and the homeowner.
Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, September 24, 2012 (referencing Hurson, C, Brown, K, Callender, I, et al. Pediatric Trampoline Injuries, J. Pediatr Orthop. 2007; 27(7): 729-732.