Federal swimming pool rule endangers swimmers

Federal swimming pool rule endangers swimmers

October 12th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

On average, one person in the United States dies each year as a result of becoming trapped in the drain suction of a swimming pool or hot tub.

Of course, each of those deaths is a tragedy. But fortunately, such cases are very rare. There hasn't been even one in the past three years.

How many other situations can you think of that involve danger to a far greater number of people? Should Congress legislate on each one?

Unfortunately, in 2007 Congress passed a law requiring that municipal pools install expensive drain guards to prevent drain-suction deaths. Few in Congress seem to have thought about the unintended consequences of that regulation, however.

Many public pools operate on tight budgets, and the drain-guard rule threatened to close some pools. That created an inadvertent danger, because many children learn to swim and learn other aspects of water safety at their local pools. In fact, far more people drown annually from not knowing how to swim than from being caught in a swimming pool's drain suction.

At any rate, public pools installed the high-dollar drain guards to comply with the federal regulation. But now the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission wants them to install a different type of guard instead!

Last year, the commission specified the kind of guard that must be used. But on a recent 3-2 vote, it reversed itself, saying another type of system has to be used by many of the pools covered under the regulation.

The new rule means that many pools "would have to buy new and costly back-up systems," The Associated Press reported. "Some pools may close if they don't have the new equipment by next May."

The head of the nonprofit National Swimming Pool Foundation said: "It doesn't make sense to increase the financial hardship on pools in a very challenging economic time. That could result in a reduction of swim lessons, which results in an increase in drownings."

All too often, common sense does not prevail in federal regulation - and in this case it may wind up having tragic results.

Isn't this just another example of the federal government involving itself in something it shouldn't be involved in - with good intentions, perhaps, but with higher costs and little prospect of good results?

Should Washington try to regulate everything?