Entrapment occurs when part of a bather or swimmer’s body becomes attached to a pool or spa drain as a result of the powerful suction of the water circulation system, or an arm or leg is inserted into a drain with a missing or broken cover. Death or serious injury can occur when the force of the suction overpowers the swimmer’s ability to disengage from the drain and rise to the surface of the water. Often, the strength of an adult is still not enough to remove someone trapped by a pool or spa drainage system. Entrapment deaths can also occur when a person’s hair or swimsuit gets tangled in the drain or on an underwater object, such as a ladder. Another type of entrapment is evisceration, caused by the suction when a bather or swimmer sits on an uncovered drain. The powerful suction of the drain can pull a person’s internal organs from the body. It is a serious injury that more often than not results in death.
Entrapments, entanglements and eviscerations happen most commonly to children. Children’s public wading pools, other pools designed specifically for young children, and in-ground spas that have flat drain grates and single main drain systems pose the greatest risk of entrapment.
The key entanglement and entrapment hazards include:
- Body: A body part, often the torso or bottom, covers a drain and is held down by the integrity or the suction (entrapment)
- Hair: Long hair is caught in a faulty drain cover (entanglement)
- Limbs: Arms, legs, feet or finders are lodged in a section opening (entrapment)
- Mechanical: Jewelry, bathing suits or other materials are entangled in a drain cover (entrapment)
- Evisceration/disembowelment: When suction draws out the intestines and organs (evisceration)
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