The majority of children and adults enjoy the experience of going to the swimming pool, whether at their local gymnasium, a luxury hotel or on holiday abroad. However, how safe are these swimming pools and in particular the tiles on which we walk?
There are approximately 236,000 injuries in European swimming pools every year. Most of the injuries are to children and teens. (Figure taken from Van der Sman C, van Marle A, Eckhardt J, van Aken D. Risks of certain sports and recreational activities in the EU: the role of services. Consumer Safety Institute)
Many of these injuries to an individual involve slipping on the surface of the swimming pool. This could be as a result of the water gathering in a certain area, the slip resistant tiles becoming less effective or tripping over mats beside the pool. Usually, a claim as a result of an injury at a swimming pool would be brought under the Occupiers’ Liability Act. The Act requires an occupier to keep a person who is a visitor reasonably safe in all the reasonable circumstances. The duty is derived from the Section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act and involves a dual application of reasonableness, in that, it is the duty of occupier to use reasonable care to see that the floor, on which people are invited, is kept reasonably safe.
Swimming pools, by its very nature and it goes really without saying that it will have water in the vicinity. In an attempt to reduce the risk of slipping and in consideration of their duty under Section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, the tiles used in the areas are usually described as having “slip resistant qualities.” How effective are these tiles?
One way to assess the effectiveness of the floor is to consider the services of a swimming pool expert to go along to the swimming pool area and examine the exact spot, where an injury has occurred. A swimming pool expert will usually instruct an engineer to carry out a specialist slip resistant test (known as a Pendulum test or a ramp test) on the floor. A ramp test consists of gradually increasing the angle of a slab with a person standing on it, from the horizontal to a point at which slipping occurs. In the swimming pool situation the person would have bare feet and the slab would be lubricated with water. This gives the maximum angle at which the slab should be laid in certain conditions.
The pendulum test involves swinging a rubber tipped pendulum over the surface of the slab that indicates the drag produced which is called the Slip Resistance Factor. The Pendulum replicates the bare foot and will test the effectiveness of the surface to withstand slips. If the engineers find that that effective of the slip resistant floor has been reduced because, for example, an inadequate cleaning regime due to for example a film of ingrained dirt trapped in the tiles or the tiles laid at a wrong angle, then it is clear to say that the occupiers have not fulfilled that duty under the Act and not kept the swimming pool area sufficiently safe.
These experts are expensive and each case has to be assessed on its own facts. However, the results from instructing one of these experts can be invaluable in assisting a Claimant who has suffered a serious injury in a swimming pool area and the occupiers are refusing to accept responsibility.