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DHHS calls for changes to pool inspections after electrocution of lifeguard

Posted March 15

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— New safety recommendations from state health leaders could impact thousands of public swimming pools in North Carolina after a teenage lifeguard was shocked and drowned in a Wake County neighborhood pool Labor Day weekend.

A surprising reality came to light after the death of Rachel Rosoff, 17, who died because of a faulty grounding wire in a pool electrical system that hadn’t been re-inspected in 37 years.

Rosoff was the first to arrive at the Heritage Point subdivision pool in north Wake County last September. Soon after, the Enloe High School senior drowned after being shocked by the water, which was electrically charged by a defective grounding wire. The wire was apparently damaged by time and corrosion.

With public pool season coming up and more than 1,100 public pools in Wake County alone, sate leaders want pool operators to know the reality is it’s up to them to have electrical systems checked.

Rosoff’s death brought to light that while all public pools are required to undergo routine inspections for factors including chemicals, signage, fencing and restrooms, those inspections do not include electrical systems.

At the time of the accident, the Heritage Point pool had been inspected three times in 2016 for those health and safety issues but an electrical inspection hadn’t happened since the pool was built in 1979. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services said that’s likely the case for most pools.

DHHS recently sent a memo to county health departments recommending “to reduce the risk of electrocutions…every pool facility evaluate the safety of its electrical systems on a regular basis” by hiring a licensed electrician.

The memo warns if electrical equipment is not within code, “you may be placing your swimmers and your employees at considerable risk.”

Wake County pool inspectors told WRAL News that in the coming weeks, they’ll provide the memo to all pool operators with their yearly inspection fee invoice. It will be up to the operators to decide what to do.

Rosoff’s mother said she feels the memo is a step in the right direction but that electrical inspections “should be a mandate, not a recommendation” with the hope that an accident like her daughter suffered never happens again.

The DHHS gives specific recommendations for items electricians should be aware of, including electrical code changes that took effect in 2014.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports 14 pool-related electrocutions between 2003 and 2014.

As far as cost, certified electricians said an inspection would cost about $300.

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