Summer or Winter, Be Alert Near Water!

A few years ago, my daughter brought our two grandchildren, Owen, 3 and Lauren, 5 to swim at our house. Lauren had taken lessons and could swim the length of the pool without pushing off the side. Owen is learning and currently loves our spa, about 50 feet from the pool near our bedroom door. He does great in the spa and can easily stand up anywhere. The danger is when he is in the spa and Lauren in the pool, our attention is divided.

In addition to being a professional safety speaker, I have been a trained lifeguard -- and there is only one safe approach. There must be someone watching each of the children. The illusion is you would hear something wrong and quickly run to their aid. At the very first National Safety Council Annual Congress I attended, I learned from a retired Coast Guard instructor that when people drown, they do so quietly.

Think about it! What is someone who is drowning desperately trying to do? Get air! They are breathing in. Noise happens when you expel air and yell. Because they are out of breath, they often can't make noise. One of the original Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson, who was a surfer and great swimmer, drowned at the side of a boat, a few feet from other people at a party. No one saw him go under or heard him.

I witnessed this at a Boy Scout camp with our troop. I was scoutmaster and serving as the lookout at a troop swim at a public lake. We had a buddy board with about 16 scouts in the water. The shore swimming area had about 150 people in or near the water. As I was watching our scouts, I noticed a father with a young daughter by his side. He was busy talking to a friend when the little girl slipped on the muddy bottom and went underwater. I stood up and noted her position. Of all the people at the beach, two people had seen her disappear. I headed to her location as did the other guy who saw her. We arrived about 20 seconds after she went under water. The other guy reached down into the water and pulled the little girl out. It was then the father's attention was attained. The father was upset at this guy for grabbing his daughter. I stepped in and explained she had been underwater for at least 20 seconds and this guy just saved her life. We were thanked and after a quick visual count of my scouts, I went back to my post.

Remind your employees the only safe way for children to be in water is to have someone actually watching them. The time of year doesn't matter, as hot tubs and spas are in use year round.

To see a video of how silently someone slips below the water unnoticed, go to:

A week after publishing the above article, I received a very emotional email in response. The author has given me permission to share it with you.

"Thanks for this very timely message, although a little late in my case. Unfortunately, I can endorse your topic from a very recent, painful experience. Less than 2 weeks ago, my almost 3 year-old grandson drowned at a family party in his parents' backyard pool. I was there but in the house at the time. My wife, with several adults, were sitting poolside watching the children (approximately 4 in the hot tub and another 4 in the pool). She watched our grandson jump into the hot tub and then climb back out, then turned to watch his older brother swim across the pool. She actually timed him at 1 minute, 15 seconds for the round-trip. When she looked back up to the hot tub and didn’t see our grandson, she asked if anyone had seen him and someone responded they thought he may have gone into the house. After confirming he wasn’t in the house, he was found floating face down in the hot tub. Three other children in the hot tub were unaware of his condition. It is estimated that less than 3-4 minutes elapsed between the time he was seen jumping into and climbing back out of the hot tub and when he was found unconscious. Although a nurse, a Navy rescue swimmer/paramedic and two other trained adults immediately administered CPR, it was to no avail. His heart was revived upon arriving at the hospital and he did some breathing assisted by a ventilator, but never regained consciousness and was finally taken off life support and allowed to pass quietly wrapped in the arms of his parents 3 days later.

"As you said, attention was divided between children, and the hot tub was raised above the level of the pool, so the adults sitting at pool level could not see the water surface of the hot tub. Even the other children in the hot tub with our grandson did not realize he was in trouble. It cannot be emphasized enough - adults must be actively watching from a vantage point where they can see the surface of the water, and cannot afford to be distracted by casual conversation or other things going on around them. Drowning happens quickly and silently. This message needs to get out to every adult. I have become a spokesman to spare others my family's grief."

John Drebinger Jr., international safety speaker and best-selling author, has been speaking for 27 years and is known for injecting humor and passion to engage audiences to help people work safely. Drebinger developed the technique and book, Would You Watch Out For My Safety?®, which teaches people a comfortable way they can point out safety to others. His first book, Mastering Safety Communication, has communication tools and techniques to enhance safety programs and is recognized by members of the safety industry as an outstanding training resource. Its popularity has resulted in selling more than 80,000 copies.

John Drebinger Jr., [email protected],, 209-745-9419, blog address:

Posted on Aug 25, 2017

Product Showcase

  • TRADESAFE Lockout Tagout Station Cabinet

    TRADESAFE Lockout Tagout Station Cabinet

    Elevate your Lockout Tagout (LOTO) safety game with TRADESAFE Lockout Tagout Station Cabinet—the ultimate safety solution for businesses that prioritize smart, reliable, and efficient safety measures. Featuring 70 LOTO devices, this durable cabinet offers the versatility you need to safely lock out hazardous energy sources during maintenance or repairs. With a spacious interior, you can easily organize and store all your LOTO devices in one place. Order yours today. 3

  • Safety Training

    Safety Training

    Become a Master of Safety Training. Take your safety training from good to great with SafeStart. Improve your personal training skills, discover the training principles that offer maximum impact, and learn the secrets of training for relevance and results. Start delivering top-notch safety training—download the guide today. 3

  • Halo™ Swing-Activated Faucet and Emergency Eyewash

    Halo™ Swing-Activated Faucet and Emergency Eyewash

    Bradley’s combined Halo™ Swing-Activated Faucet and Emergency Eyewash is a convenient space saver for tight workspaces. During regular faucet use, the eyewash is stored out of the way. In an emergency, the Halo eyewash is immediately activated when it is swung out 90 degrees over the sink. In less than one second, the faucet is deactivated while the eyewash is directly positioned over the sink for use. Designed with a durable ceramic valve that limits wear on moving parts, this swing-activated model provides dependability and long-lasting performance. 3