Pool safety is, of course, a huge concern throughout the
But what to do during the actual building process? Once the
excavator breaks ground, that quiet backyard is quickly transformed
into an all-out construction zone.
“It’s not going to be a ‘backyard having a pool
put in,’” says Mike Giovanone, owner of Concord Pools,
a Pool & Spa News Top Builderin Latham, N.Y. “A
‘backyard having a pool put in’ is an 18-foot
aboveground. An inground pool project is, in fact, an area of
And to average homeowners, it’s an area rife with hazards.
But builders can help keep customers safe. All it takes is the
proper communication, barriers and daily practices.
Paint the picture
Verbally notify clients ahead of time about what will take place
during construction and the dangers involved.
This includes explaining that heavy machinery and a work crew will
be tearing into their backyard. In addition, the area soon will
contain a large excavation with rebar jutting out; and multiple
trenches, which must remain open until the plumbing is inspected,
Tell them that under no circumstances should children be in the
area, regardless of whether crews are present.
Next, put the conversation in writing. Incorporate a warning into
your contract, as well as on any preparatory handbooks or
checklists you give the customer.
To protect yourself against future liability, make sure the clients
understand and sign the agreement.Giovanone’s team even brings in visual aids.
“We have a photo album of a typical sequential four weeks of
a swimming pool going into a yard,” he says. “We never
try to mask the fact that this is going to be a construction
Your clients have been warned, but others haven’t.
In case you must remove a gate or fence to gain access, remember
that the new opening will have to be safeguarded after the crew
leaves for the day.
Yellow safety tape and orange cones placed across an opening are
good indicators. But some builders feel safer installing temporary
fencing. Consult local codes for specific requirements.
A temporary construction fence surrounding the pool (or large hole
at this point), will help keep out homeowners and children. Just
remember to place it as far from the hole as possible.
“You don’t want the fence to interfere with the
plumbing, electrical trenching, forming of the deck, or the
shotcrete or gunite crews,” says John Mortensen, owner of
Aquatic Concepts, a consulting firm in Phoenix.
Most of these barriers contain a flap that allows for passage in
and out. At the end of each day, Giovanone says, that flap should
be secured shut with plastic wire ties.
“You can’t undo those; you have to cut them off,”
he says. “So every time we come back on the job, we have to
cut them off. There’s no functional doorway that a customer,
neighbor or child could get into.”
Even so, make it clear that when it comes to the kids,
there’s no substitute for parental supervision, Mortensen
“You have to watch your children if you have a pool,”
he adds, “and the same thing goes for an open
Touch base with the homeowners throughout construction. And let
them know what to expect at each stage.“The very first thing our excavators do when they get there is make personal contact,” Giovanone says.
“They make sure the homeowners know that we will be working
in the yard today. We ask them to please lock all the rear screen
doors if they have small children.”
Next, clients should be cautioned about piles of dirt from the
excavation, especially if they are not contained behind safety
fencing. Though an attractive diversion for children, these piles
may contain rocks and other sharp objects, not to mention the
potential for a painful tumble from the summit.
Inform the homeowners when your crew departs for the day. Make sure
they know about open trenches and other works in progress to
Trash, debris and construction waste aren’t just eyesores
— they’re unsafe. Obvious damage can be done by loose
nails, screws or pieces of rebar.
What’s more, trash can obscure other unavoidable hazards,
such as the steel cage or open trenches. Before the crew vacates
the site each day, any materials that can be removed should
This means securing all tools; locking and retaining the keys to
all large equipment; and making sure no live electrical lines are
Even when running a vacuum overnight for a vinyl-liner
installation, Giovanone’s crew outfits the machine with a
child-proof, shock-resistant plug enclosure to protect against
electrical shock as well as rain and movement.
Not enough builders follow the guidelines of the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration, according to some industry
experts. They cite the failure to place plastic safety caps on each
exposed end of rebar as just one example.
In general, avoid surprises. Show customers where the unavoidable
hazards are, and mark those areas with tape or flags. This includes
open trenches and nearly anything with sharp objects poking
It is especially important when building a vertical element, such
as a tall waterfall with exposed rebar.
And don’t stack rocks in piles — it’s unstable
and unsafe. Instead, tail-gate spread them, placing each on the
ground one at a time and leaving 3 feet between them. No piles will
tumble, and the rocks should remain in pristine condition.
Don’t add to the statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 97
laborers were killed in 2006 by residential job-site injuries
through falls, contact with objects and equipment, or exposure to
harmful substances or environments.
And these were professionals familiar with the hazards of
construction sites. Children and homeowners don’t have the
same knowledge, so they require greater protection.
“Having an open concrete pit in the backyard with rebar and
debris around it is inherently dangerous,” Kircher says.
“Builders never think of it that way, in my experience,
because they do it day in and day out.”
By taking these simple steps, though, you can prevent homeowners
from becoming statistics.