OSHA weighs in on water park drowning

April 12, 2008 12:21:55 AM PDT
A horrible tragedy at a South Bay water park may, at the very least, save the lives of other children. In a report released Friday, Cal-OSHA said Great America was not in violation of any safety standards when a 4-year-old boy drowned in its wave pool last summer. The 4-year-old's drowning may result in changes at every water park in California.

The drowning death of a 4-year-old at Great America last summer, is giving way to new state regulations to insure child safety in wave pools.

A Cal-OSHA report just released Friday, describes how some lifeguards at the water park had been at their post for longer than the recommended one hour.

The report says the boy was floating in the pool for 39 seconds. Lifeguards are trained to spot floating bodies in less than 30 seconds.

"The child was unattended in the pool, did not have an adult accompanying him. Because of that we've put into place several corrective actions," said Dean Fryer, a Cal-OSHA spokesman.

Cal-OSHA is requiring that children under 42 inches tall, are to be accompanied by an adult in the water. They are also mandating that children under 48 inches wear a life vest at all times in a wave pool.

"To me, they should have been in place a long time ago. It should not be an option whether you're going to wear a life vest or anything that's more safe in the water. It should be a priority always," said Jamie Buckingham, a Sunnyvale Swim Complex Manager.

The new requirements seemed to meet with unanimous support at South Bay swim clubs and among Great America patrons who had first hand experience in a wave pool.

"When I was little, I did that and a wave came over me and I couldn't get out of it and it was really scary, so I think it's better if people wore life vests under 48 inches," said Celeste Hellman, a Great America patron.

"I think it's a hassle and it's a good thing for people trying to keep their kids safe and they don't want anymore accidents to happen," said Sarah Rabin, a Great America patron.

Great America would not comment on camera, but issued a statement saying they started enforcing the new requirements last summer when the wave pool reopened.

Cal-OSHA says they intend to make requirements for both life vests and adult supervision a new state standard at all water parks with wave pools in California.


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