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Interpreting Accident Information
Wayne Oras


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 types.

     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.

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