CPSC is aware of 74 cases of body entrapment, including 13 confirmed deaths, between January 1990 and August 2004. The deaths were the result of drowning after the body, or a limb, was held against the drain by the suction of the circulation pump (Ref. 1). The incidents occurred in both residential and public settings. Twenty-two incidents occurred at a residential location, and 31 at a public facility. In 21 cases, the location was not specified. Thirty-nine of the incidents occurred in spas, hot tubs, or whirlpools, 31 incidents occurred in swimming pools and three occurred in a wading pool (one location was reported as ”unknown”). In one of the spa incidents, a 16-year-old girl became trapped on a 12" by 12" flat drain grate in a large public spa and died.
The reported incidents involved people ranging in age from 22 months to 89 years. Most incidents were to older children (8 to 16 years of age); 77% of the victims were under the age of 15 years with a median age of 9 years. In some of the cases, it appears that the child was playing with the open drain, including inserting a hand or foot into the pipe, and then became trapped by the increased suction and resulting tissue swelling.
There are potentially many different circumstances of design and maintenance that can produce the conditions for this hazard, which can occur in either pools or spas. The scenarios suggest that any open drain, or any flat grating that the body can cover completely, coupled with a plumbing configuration that allows a strong suction force to persist if the drain is blocked, can present this hazard. Drain covers available on the market since 1982 generally have a domed shape, which may offer some protection against body entrapment. Depending upon the plumbing configuration and pool maintenance conditions, a single bottom drain can serve as the sole water inlet to the pump. This condition becomes dangerous if there is an inadequate or missing drain cover.
"Guidelines for Entrapment Hazards" - http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/363.pdf
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