Care Must Be Taken When Interpreting Diving Accident Information.
Completed February 13, 2000
by Wayne Oras
In a report titled, “In Search Of Answers:
A Search that Demonstrates A Definite Need To Re-categorize The
Types Of Diving Accidents In Swimming Pools” May 1999, residential
swimming pools were found to be the type of swimming pools where
majority of the diving board accidents were taking place. These
accidents have been mis-perceived as occurring from the use of competitive
equipment in municipal pools. This paper is another attempt to show
that there is a real need to re-categorize Diving Accidents and
accurately show what types of pools they are occurring in most frequently.
Only when this accurate assessment occurs will diving from diving
boards in Municipal pools be shown as extremely safe.
This author has taken that research a
little further at this time. By agreeing to take part in the National
Pool and Spa Institute's canvass called ANSI/NSPI-7 2000X, many
questions arose. ANSI is the American National Standards Institute
and is part of NSPI. The canvassing process is used to gain consensus
from its members by re-evaluating the current standards that regulate
NSPI’s pool and spa industry. NSPI’s standards do not cover the
entire swimming pool industry. It's reminiscent of the standard
for water clarity in swimming pools. Across the country, there may
be some 300 different standards for water clarity. It boils down
to a determination of which one is going to be followed.
When looking at NSPI and its many
distributors, it is noticed that majority of their pools are odd
shaped, shallow and may have a water fall or fountain type effect.
They appear to add a certain ambiance to the surrounding area and
might be constructed more for appearance rather than function. During
the search of one web site, many award winning pools could be seen
but none showed any kind of diving board. The following is based
on that search.
NSPI affiliated distributors deal with
residential above ground pools that are usually 3 * - 4 feet deep
with vinyl liners that can extend somewhat deeper. That ability
allows the owner to vary the depths in these pools. They are not
engineered to support diving boards because they are made of either
a thin aluminum or a galvanized steel frame. However a deck can
be erected for convenience and relaxation. These pools are affordable
and can be seen in many back yards across the nation. They also
give rise, world wide, to shallow water diving accidents. These
accidents can be from a dive off the supplied ladders, someone's
shoulders or from a deck that may be erected around the pool. In
any case, there should be a warning of no diving of any kind allowed
in these pools.
The in ground residential pools can be
formed with concrete and have a vinyl liner covering that surface.
The pool form can also be a fiberglass shell buried in the ground
and may also have a vinyl liner covering the inner surface of that
pool. They can be located indoors or out. In any case, these pools
can support the use of a diving board, at the owner's discretion,
depending on the depth and the distance to the transition slope
toward the shallow end. If a diving board is used, it may be a jump
board, spring board or any other variety that is usually 6,10 or
12 feet in length. None are the competitive diving board length
(which is 16 feet) or even made of the same materials. Injuries
in these pools from diving boards almost always show that the diver
missed the deepest part of the pool and struck the shallow end or
the transition slope to the shallow end.
Other NSPI pools, public or commercial,
usually do not have diving boards at all. They are the zero depth
pools, the water park variety with floating things to climb on or
rock ledges to dive from. Normally these are not competitive pool
When NSPI reports injury statistics, those
statistics are accrued from the pools they regulate and construct.
Their injury statistics do not cover other larger pools constructed
for competitive and/or public use. They also do not cover the entire
pool industry. Caution, therefore must be taken by the people
who collect, look at and interpret this statistical evidence because
the accuracy of an interpretation is only as good as the accuracy
of the data used.
The reports from other services like the
Consumer Product Safety Commission contain all statistics, including
those of NSPI. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance
System (NEISS) is a part of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Since it is in place to protect the consumer it will report all
injuries including NSPI’s. This is where the confusion begins. Backyard
swimming pool diving board accidents are being reported as Diving
Board Accidents. The Consumer Product Safety Commission includes
NSPI’s statistics along with any others reported to them. This is
like mixing apples with oranges and saying they are the same. That
mis-representation or mis-perception of the facts has a far-reaching
effect. Other reporting bodies have access to the same statistics
and come out with their own reports. When Insurance Companies
look at those faulty statistics, they set their premiums in the
highest risk category for swimming pools with diving boards. Placing
a pool in the highest risk category makes insurance policy costs
prohibitive for pool owner/operators. This situation gave rise to
Risk Management and other self insured programs of today.
Lately it appears that NSPI is in the
process of further clouding this issue by constructing swimming
pools of varying depths and placing the responsibility of the appropriate
diving board to be used on the manufacturer. This appears to stem
from a lawsuit that was filed and a judgment made against them.
A picture showing dura-flex diving boards with 3 meter standards
appeared in an article about the shift of diving board responsibility.
In that article, the Education Director of NSPI stated that the
deepest well that NSPI will recommend would be equal to the FINA
depth for a 1 meter board. Most of NSPI’s business is involved with
the residential swimming pool. A dura-flex board is rarely if ever
seen in NSPI swimming pools. Whoever placed the article with
a picture of 3 meter dura-flex boards is helping to create this
mis-perception. The article with the picture of a competitive
pool and competitive diving equipment is just another way of clouding
the issues that continue to plague Competitive Diving.
Risk Management Departments and the Insurance
industry must be better informed when looking at statistics. Putting
public pools in the highest risk category just because it has diving
boards doesn't make sense. The diving well is the safest part
of a swimming pool when diving. Backyard swimming pools with
diving boards are not as safe because they are smaller and shallower.
Alcohol is also readily available in residential pools and is attributed
to 50 to 80% of all diving injuries. Alcohol has never been permitted
in public pools. The mind-set that keeps emphasizing the phrase
“potential for injury” has diving boards disappearing in swimming
pools across the nation. That “potential for injury” has never
been supported by any hard facts except in residential pools.
This mis-perception and mis-interpretation must be stopped. Recreational
diving is the starting point for many competitive divers. Without
diving boards, kids will never be exposed to diving at any level
and the sport could even be lost at the Olympic level.
Even with these inaccuracies in reporting injuries,
all diving is safe when compared to other activities. If the information
is ever interpreted accurately, then diving from diving boards in
municipal pools will be shown to be exceptionally safe.