Feature Article - April 2004
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Safe and Swim

The best risk management practices for pool and waterpark safety

By Kim Tobin

Critical Hazardous Areas

Culled from the opinions of aquatic world safety watchdogs, the following is a list of common hazards and causes of potential injury at aquatic centers. View them as front and center on your facility's risk radar screen and implement recommended actions, if necessary.

DIVING: Follow new dive-block depth recommendations (at least eight feet) and implement structural changes to accommodate them, such as modifications to boards or timing systems.

DIVE BOARDS: Check that enough nonslip grit is present and that bolts and side rails are intact. Also, make sure stairs are cleaned regularly and are not slippery.

LIFESAVING EQUIPMENT: Have the appropriate equipment in accordance with your certifying health department agency. Check first-aid kits, back boards, head immobilizers, CPR masks, neck braces, safety hoods, reaching poles, life rings and rescue tubes.

RESUSCITATION EQUIPMENT: Have the right equipment in accordance with your certifying health department agency and the American Red Cross.

DECKING: Install "No Running" signage on deck. The deck should have a splash or wet area. The use of sunscreens can result in slick spots. Stay aware of what areas can become slippery from oils and lotions and place appropriate signage in those areas, which are often steps into the pool, gutter systems and outside of showers.

FENCING: Every outdoor pool needs to have fencing around its perimeter at a height of about six feet. Gates should self-latch and have less than four-inch openings in vertical bars or slots or have small mesh size and a lock. In many cases, children can squeeze through or climb over or under inadequate fencing.

LOCKER ROOMS: Display slip caution signage. Many people don't realize that water on the floor creates slip hazards.

NIGHT BARRIERS AROUND POOL: Install them. Without a fence or cover to secure the pool and prevent access, improper or unscheduled use can tempt when a pool is officially closed. Many accidents have happened, including drownings, from swimming and diving at night.

POOL DEPTH: There should be no diving unless a depth is recognized and accepted by a state's health department. Additionally, line a pool bottom correctly and clearly. It allows divers to better see the bottom and its profile, allowing more accurate judgments about depth.

SIGNAGE: Have enough of it and provide direction on what visitors should and should not do, as well as point out hazards. Essentials include "No Diving" signs where necessary, pool capacity signs, emergency signs, proper CPR instructions and commercial pool rules.