What are electrical safety tips for swimming pools, and how can problems be detected and avoided?
Thankfully, it’s rare to hear about people getting shocks from condominium swimming pools. However, in light a recent incident at a Florida condominium, it is timely to review some of the safety aspects of swimming pools in condominiums.
The construction and operation of pools, tubs and spas in Ontario is highly regulated. The Ontario Electrical Safety Code’s (OESC) section 68 is devoted entirely to pools, tubs and spas. While some Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) inspections can be audited for approved contractors, all work relating to pools must be inspected and are exempted from the audit process.
In addition, the provincial government has a regulation that governs the operation of public spas (hot tubs) — Ontario Regulation 428/05 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. To ensure compliance with these mandatory requirements, public health inspectors carry out routine inspection of public pools and spas.
As is clear, both the ESA and the Health Department recognize the added danger that could exist in and around a pool or spa.
In general, the OESC requires all electrical items in the pool and within three metres of the pool to be protected by a Class A-type ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI continuously compares line path current with neutral path return current (power in to power out). If it detects an imbalance, it immediately opens the circuit. A Class A GFCI will trip on greater than six milliamps (mA) current within six milliseconds.
These GFCIs are a very effective tool to eliminate the possibility of a shock to people in and around pools. One rarely hears about shocks to people, but one commonly hears about the GFCIs tripping.
Equipment such as in-pool (and fountain) lights and pool-area lighting becomes susceptible to this type of current leakage. Seals in pool lights fail and fixtures get rusty due to the humidity in the pool area. Even a tiny amount of condensation on the inside of a pool light lens is enough to trip the protective GFCI.
This same sensitivity is what makes these GFCIs a lifesaver.
As with any mechanical system, these GFCIs do need some testing to make sure that they’re operating properly. All GFCIs have a test button. Property managers should ensure that these GFCIs are tested on a monthly basis. Any GFCI that doesn’t trip should be turned off and will need the immediate attention of a licensed electrical contractor.
Mark Marmer always enjoyed tinkering with electricity and working with his hands, and so he started in the electrical trade back in 1973. In 1985 he established Signature Electric.