Continued...POOL & SPA NEWS NOVEMBER 20, 1996
On July 11, 1996. CPSC convened a meeting of
representatives from the pool and spa industry; the medical community;
federal, states and local regulatory agencies; and the public to discuss
what can be done to prevent such disasters.
That meeting was opened with a concise briefing about
what specifically constitutes a suction-entrapment accident. Delivered
by William N. Rowley, Ph.D., PE, a commercial-pool engineer and longtime
board member of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the 15-minute
presentation outlined the basic categories of accidents and described
the typical scenarios under which these incidents occur.
And indeed, Rowley is uniquely qualified to define
the relevant issues of suction entrapment. In 1974, as director of
engineering for Swimquip, a manufacturer of pool and spa equipment that
was based in El Monte, Calif. Rowley conducted a study of suction
entrapment that to this day stands as one of the most comprehensive ever
With a test tank at the company's factory, Rowley
staged a series of tests to quantify the suction force delivered by
various plumbing configurations, pipe sizes, pump sizes and types of
drain covers. He was also one of several research participants who
volunteered to be entrapped on the test pool's bottom under a variety of
"I trapped off on drains that had just a
fraction of the suction pressure that's present in some of these
accidents, and even under controlled conditions, it was painful."
Rowley says. "It was a frightening experience, one I know I'll
In the 20-plus years since these tests, Rowley has
continued to gather anecdotal information about entrapment accidents and
has become one of the leading voices in the call for increased safety
Currently Rowley is working with NSPI and ANSI to
rewrite language in their standards to increase the safety of public
pool and spa installations. Rowley is also working with CPSC to develop
retrofit recommendations for existing wading pools, spas and swimming
One of the biggest obstacles to solving the suction- entrapment
problem, says Rowley, is a lack of under standing about the conditions
of risk and exposure that result in such accidents.
The need to assign blame in some instances — or to come up with easy,
sure-fire answers — also clouds the real issues at band, he notes,
and, in some ways, blocks progress toward a good solution.
"I believe it's very important for those of us looking to solve
this problem that we start from a level playing field by first
understanding what it is exactly that we're all talking about,