Pool Slides

Swimming pool slides are designed for recreation and entertainment primarily for children and young adults, though they are marketed for users of all ages. Slides into swimming pools pose a potential risk to the user in their combination of wet, slick surfaces and their height off the ground. Safety studies show that many accidents occur when users slide down headfirst and strike the bottom of the pool. Leg fractures are also possible from feetfirst entry into the water off of slides, and other accidents result when users collide with other people in the pool or fall from the slide ladder. About 75 percent of pool slides are found in residential pools, but other slides can be found at commercial pools and water parks. There are certain safety recommendations that installers, owners, and users should heed in the construction and use of pool slides. The recommendations and standards apply to all pool slides, whether the slides are connected to pools that are above-ground, in-ground, or on-ground.

Safety Standards for Pool Slides

According to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, the Consumer Product Safety Commission set forth minimum standards (in Part 1207 of the Code) for swimming pool slide design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance in 1976. These standards became necessary due to the rising number of cases of serious injuries, including quadriplegia, paraplegia, and even death, that were being reported in emergency rooms as a result of swimming pool slides.
As part of this code, specific standards were put in place, and some causes of defects in swimming pool slides were listed as:

  • General material failure or defects (materials must be compatible with users and the environment)
  • Environmental effects (materials must be able to endure rain, snow, ice, sunlight, temperature changes, wind, air pollution, and chemical pool environments)
  • Surface material risks (materials should be finished or protected in ways that do not cause cuts, pinches, punctures, or abrasions and they should be free from protrusions)
  • Toxicity (paints and finishes used on the slide must comply with code)
  • Chemical non-compatibility (materials used in manufacture, installation, or maintenance must be chemically compatible with chemicals used for the swimming pool and other elements of the environment)

Additional safety regulations that must be followed for all pool slides include:

  • Ladders, steps, ramps, or stairs must have treads in place of rungs, if the incline angle is 15 degrees or greater
  • Angle of the steps or ladder must be such that the slider’s center of gravity is fully atop each step during use
  • Steps must meet specific dimension, tread curvature, slip resistance, and performance requirements
  • Fasteners must be durable and not prone to breakage, becoming loose, or cracking
  • Minimum dimensions apply for ladder platforms with slip-resistant surface at the top of the slide, including handrails
  • Load bearing capability must be 300 pounds without failure or damage
  • Handrails must meet specific positioning, extension height, design safety, and length requirements
  • Pool slides must be lubricated (i.e., by water)
  • Highly specific and recorded durability and performance tests must be conducted for all slide models

Defective Pool Slides and Potential for Injury

Examples of pool slide defects and potential problems and injuries associated with the slides include:

  • Leg lacerations on ladder rungs constructed of metal
  • Slips and falls from ladder steps due to lack of traction
  • Aged or worn materials that cause separation of the ladder from the slide
  • Wet, slippery surface of the ladder platform that causes slips and falls from the top of slide
  • Inability of slide to endure load of sliders, becoming bent or dislodged from the concrete at the base
  • Improper angling of pool slide at time of construction, causing unsafe entry into pool
  • Defective manufacturing or design materials that do not weather well, causing separation of parts or cracking and instability of the entire slide

Statistics for Pool Slide Accidents

In 1976, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were approximately 56,000 emergency room visits for swimming pool, pool slide, and diving board injuries. Males accounted for 63 percent of slide injuries, and lacerations to the face and head were the most commonly reported injuries.

The most serious pool slide injuries result from sliding headfirst down the slide into shallow water, which can lead to spinal cord injury, paraplegia, quadriplegia, or death. Diving and sliding accidents combined account for more spinal cord injuries, and resulting paralysis, than the total number of spinal cord injuries caused from all other sports.

In 1998, out of an estimated 57,900,000 total pool swimmers throughout the U.S., 99,691 swimmers faced injury associated with swimming or the use of a pool slide. The figures from 1998 were almost twice the number of pool injuries reported in 1976. Of those injured in 1998, the majority of injuries occurred in swimmers aged five to 14 (43.8 percent), with the next highest occurrence in swimmers aged 25 to 64 (24.3 percent).

Cases of Defective Pool Slides Causing Injury or Death

Some of the most widely known brand manufacturers and distributors of pool slides include:

  • Aquaslide ‘n Dive
  • Aviva (inflatable)
  • Habitat (inflatable)
  • Home Waterpark (inflatable)
  • Interfab
  • Jacuzzi Leisure Products
  • S.R. Smith

There have been many documented cases of pool slide failures that resulted in injury or death. The following cases are examples of lawsuits and legal action taken against pool slide suppliers or manufacturers who were held responsible for damages.

Jacuzzi Canada

In 2008, a woman sued Jacuzzi Canada and Pioneer Pools, a pool parts retailer, when her daughter was rendered a quadriplegic after sliding down a Jacuzzi Leisure Products slide into a pool that was too shallow (4 feet of water depth). Jacuzzi Leisure was found not liable for damages, but Pioneer Pools was found liable in providing misleading advice to the woman, telling her that installation of the slide into her shallow pool would “be fine” (Walford v. Jacuzzi Canada Ltd.).

WaterWorld USA

In 1997, a 17-year old girl was killed and 32 other students were injured at WaterWorld USA in Concord, Calif., when the water slide they were on collapsed. The initial legal action by 14 victims led to a $4 million settlement in November 1999.

Knoebels Amusement Park

In 1999, Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Penn., was charged with negligence in a case involving two young girls who had been part of 15 separate passenger injury incidents over the course of several years from a water slide with a 40-foot vertical drop.

End Notes:

  1. Columbia Elevator Products Company, Elevator Info/Elevator History, http://www.columbia-elevator.com/info/history.html.
  2. Schumacher Elevator Company, Elevator Types, http://www.schumacherelevator.com/Elevatortypes/index.htm.
  3. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - A Report of the Center To Protect Workers' Rights, http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/405/d000397/deaths-and-injuries-involv...
  4. James Filippone, Joel D. Feldman, Ronald D. Schloss, Elevator and Escalator Accident Reconstruction and Litigation, (Tucson: Lawyers and Judges Publishing, 2005).
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.toc.htm
  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.toc.htm
  7. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - A Report of the Center To Protect Workers' Rights, http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/405/d000397/deaths-and-injuries-involv...
  8. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - A Report of the Center To Protect Workers' Rights, http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/405/d000397/deaths-and-injuries-involv...
  9. National Elevator Association, Inc., Elevator and Escalator Fast Facts, http://www.neii.org/presskit/pressmaster.cfm?link=5
  10. Open Jurist, 921 F2d 1224 Wyatt v. Otis Elevator Company T Wyatt, openjurist.org/921/f2d/1224/wyatt-v-otis-elevator-company-t-wyatt
  11. Open Jurist, 861 F2d 655 Jones v. Otis Elevator Company, openjurist.org/861/f2d/655/jones-v-otis-elevator-company
  12. Open Jurist, 358 F3d 777 Garcia v. International Elevator Company, openjurist.org/358/f3d/777/garcia-v-international-elevator-company-inc
  13. Open Jurist, 925 F2d 1464 Krueger v. Otis Elevator Company, openjurist.org/925/f2d/1464/krueger-v-otis-elevator-company
  14. Christina Doran, “University of Md. Medical System Corp. sues over elevator defect,” The Baltimore Daily Record, Sept 5, 2007
  15. Patent Storm, US Patent 6666319-Safety device for escalators and moving walkways, http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6666319/description.html
  16. Safety Assessment Federation of England, “06 Escalator Combplate Defect Classification Criteria,” http://www.safed.co.uk/Committee/06%20Escalator%20combplate%20defect%20c...
    Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - A Report of the Center To Protect Workers' Rights, http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/405/d000397/deaths-and-injuries-involv...
    Ibid.
  17. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, Deaths and Injuries Involving Elevators and Escalators - A Report of the Center To Protect Workers' Rights, http://www.elcosh.org/en/document/405/d000397/deaths-and-injuries-involv...
  18. James Filippone, Joel D. Feldman, Ronald D. Schloss, Elevator and Escalator Accident Reconstruction and Litigation, (Tucson: Lawyers and Judges Publishing, 2005), 141.
  19. National Elevator Association, Inc., Elevator and Escalator Fast Facts, http://www.neii.org/presskit/pressmaster.cfm?link=5
  20. Tom McGhee, “Escalator Manufacturer, Denver Officials at Odds on ‘Design Flaw,’” The Denver Post, Sept 15, 2003
  21. Stephen C. Fehr, “Metro Escalator Steps in Need of Costly Lift,” The Washington Post, Mar 27, 1991.
  22. Open Jurist, 351 F2d 561 Penney Company v. Westinghouse Electric Corporation, http://openjurist.org/351/f2d/561/penney-company-v-westinghouse-electric...
  23. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Public Playground Safety Handbook, http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/325.pdf.
  24. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Timberform 4000 Playground Equipment Repaired by Columbia Cascade, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml87/87004.html
  25. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, BCI Burke Recalls Buckle Bridges on Series 2000 Playgrounds, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml02/02554.html.
  26. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Playworld Systems Announce Recall of Playground Slides, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml01/01501.html.
  27. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Playground Decks Modification Program by Miracle Recreation, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml93/93106.html.
  28. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, SportsPlay Equipment Recals Playgrounds Due to Violation of Lead Paint Ban, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml09/09737.html.
  29. R. Loder, “The demographics of playground equipment injuries in children,”
  30. Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Volume 43, Issue 4, Pages 691-699.
    ibid
  31. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Public Playground Safety Handbook, http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/325.pdf.
  32. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Complaint Filed Against GameTime Playground Equipment, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml87/87059.html
  33. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Indoor Gym House Ladders Replaced by Creative Playthings, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml82/82008.html
  34. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Play Sets Recalled by Rainbow Play Systems, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml00/00191.html
  35. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Tornado Spiral Slides Modification Program by Miracle Recreation, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml93/93038.html
  36. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Playground Equipment Repaired by Pixieland, http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml83/83062.html
  37. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Commercial Practices in Part 1207 – Safety Standard for Swimming Pool Slides, http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=281468da8c04d90...
    Ibid.
  38. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC Advises Consumers On Swimming Pool Safety, http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PREREL/prhtml76/76029.html
  39. Center for Disease Control, Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Aquatic Deaths and Injuries, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00001141.htm
  40. Lifesaving Resources, Inc., Drowning and Aquatic Injury Facts, http://www.lifesaving.com/issues/articles/DrowningFacts.html
  41. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Commercial Practices in Part 1207 – Safety Standard for Swimming Pool Slides, http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=281468da8c04d90...
  42. PoolandSpa.com, Demographics, http://www.poolandspa.com/page5097.htm
  43. Canadian Underwriter, Ontario Court of Appeal clarifies a retail store employee’s ‘standard of care’ in product liability case,” http://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/issues/ISArticle.asp?aid=1000070728
  44. RideAccidents.com, WaterWorld USA settles with riders in 1997 water slide collapse, http://www.rideaccidents.com/1999.html#nov11
  45. RideAccidents.com, Knoebels water slide brings injuries, lawsuits, http://www.rideaccidents.com/1999.html#mar2