Pool parties are a fun summer activity, but those hosting need to keep a vigilant eye out and take precautions to ensure everyone is safe, personal injury lawyer Gino Paciocco tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“We’ve had cases with drowning fatalities and have seen that if you’re going to have a party, you take on the responsibility for those who attend,” says Paciocco, founding partner of the Windsor-based Paciocco & Mellow. “Really what it comes down to is active supervision.”
Situations sometimes occur in the water where even the best swimmer may get into trouble, including cramps, hitting your head on a rock or a diving board or a medical emergency, says Paciocco.
He points to Olympic swimming competitions, which are always staffed with lifeguards, no matter the experience of the competitors.
“For Pete’s sake, you have swimmers like Michael Phelps, who has 28 Olympic medals, and he has a lifeguard watching over the pool,” he says.
Officials are examining the circumstances earlier this month when a 15-year-old boy drowned while on a school trip to Algonquin Park. Questions are being asked about the amount and the kind of supervision that was available during the trip.
Paciocco refers to his case where he represented the family of a child who drowned while on an elementary school graduation excursion. The get-together was held at a residential home and teenagers escorted the group of children to a nearby beach.
“We were successful in that case because there wasn’t active supervision and basically when you’re throwing a party, you’re stepping into the shoes of a parent,” he says.
Paciocco says anyone hosting a water-based event needs to remove themselves from the activity and keep an eye on those in the water to ensure they remain safe. That means they ought not to mix with the other partygoers, and refrain from typical hosting duties.
The best approach, he says, is to hire a lifeguard to ensure someone is watching the water at all times.
For those with outdoor pools, fencing and locked gates are crucial. Paciocco suggests putting alarms on the doors of the house, as well, particularly when there are young children. That way parents are alerted if a child goes into the pool area.
Other prudent precautions include ensuring there is a reasonable level of swimming competence and encouraging the use of life jackets.
“The most important thing is active supervision, which is not just sitting by the pool and conversing with guests while glancing at the water from time to time,” he says. “Sometimes kids, with peer pressure, or whatever, make the wrong decisions.”
That, he says, is an extension of the overall responsibility homeowners have when they host parties. They’re obligated to ensure the property is safe and there are no hazards.
“People have to check that their furniture and property are in a good state of repair and that guests are not left unattended, especially the kids,” says Paciocco.
For those who plan to serve alcoholic beverages, he suggests having a Smart-Serve trained bartender on hand to monitor the situation and ensure guests are not over-served.
“The moment you decide to host a gathering, you’re taking on a tremendous amount of liability. So you have to ensure that people are being monitored and reasonable in their consumption of alcohol,” he says.
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