Preventing Slips & Falls
Pool-related safety issues should always be top of mind for park and recreation managers. While it happened nearly a decade ago, one pool season story serves as a reminder of a safety issue many of them must deal with all too often. A brand-new, state-of-the-art swimming pool opened in a park and recreation center near London, England. The pool, which cost taxpayers several million dollars, had to be shut down shortly after it opened because of 28 accidents—one fairly serious—involving people slipping on the tiles around the pool.
Before the pool even opened, park and recreation staff noticed that the tiles around it were slippery, so they warned users to walk slowly and carefully around the pool. But even with the warnings, the slip-and-fall accidents started almost from day one. Administrators decided something had to be done and closed the pool right in the middle of a pool fitness class.
Because the pool was brand new, the park administrators turned to the manufacturer and installers of the tiles to come up with a solution. After all, the vendors were well aware that the pool would be used by all kinds of people, from children to seniors. As a solution, a protective, nonslip coating was applied to the tiles, which seemed to take care of the problem. Additionally, mats were installed around the pool to help keep the walking area dry.
While the manufacturer and installers took care of this slippery situation, in most cases, park and rec administrators are working with older pools and tiles, so they have no one to turn to but themselves to ensure pool safety. Fortunately, there are simple and inexpensive ways to address this challenge, starting with the installation of mats specifically engineered to be used around swimming pools and other wet areas at a park and rec center.
According to Adam Strizzi with Crown Matting Technologies, "drain-through" mats should be installed on top of tiles around the pool. "Even if a slip-resistant coating has been applied to the tiles, as they become wet, the coating may lose its effectiveness. Installing drain-through mats helps ensure water and moisture stay below the walkway surface."
According to Strizzi, many administrators likely have already seen these types of mats because they often are installed in locker rooms where people walk around on wet surfaces. This suggests that these mats can prove effective both indoors, in locker rooms and around pool areas, as well as around wet areas outdoors.
The mats should allow water to drain through so that the surface stays safely dry. Strizzi suggests administrators should select mats that also have the following attributes:
- Made from nonporous PVC. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a synthetic plastic. The material is very durable, so it will provide years of service. This is one reason PVC often is used in place of copper for pipes.
- Made for barefoot traffic. The pool mats should have been designed specifically to be walked on with bare feet. "Making the mat comfortable to walk on ensures it will be used."
- AS™ slip-resistant. The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) is a nonprofit organization that sets standards that apply to a variety of products including goggles, shoes and pool mats. Pool mats that meet certain AS™ standards have enhanced slip-resistance, ensuring walker safety.
- Antibacterial. Some pool mats have antibacterial and antifungal additives. These help prevent mold, fungus and bacteria from growing on the mats and potentially being passed on to the walker.
- UV-resistant. Especially if the mats are installed around an outdoor pool, it is important that they be resistant to ultraviolet (UV) light. This will help prevent damage. If the mats are installed in a locker room or indoor pool area, UV-resistance is not required.
Often, pool mats are cleaned by mopping them with a cleaning solution or a disinfectant, picking them up and allowing them to dry. The area below the mat may be cleaned the same way.
Although this is a common cleaning technique, in today's world with concerns about methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other diseases that can be transmitted in wet areas, it is no longer effective. The key problem is that as the mop is used, it and the mop water become saturated with soils and contaminants. This also weakens the cleaning solution so even if a disinfectant is used, it will slowly lose its effectiveness. The entire mopping process also means that the mop may spread contaminants from one mat to another.
An alternative is to use a spray-and-vac or no-touch cleaning system. With this type of system, cleaning solutions are applied directly to the pool mats, and then the same areas are pressure-rinsed. The mats are then picked up and allowed to air dry. The tile area below the mat can be cleaned the same way, and with the machine's built-in vacuum system picking up the soil, cleaning solution and moisture, the tile area is safe and dry almost immediately.
Usually when it comes to pool safety we think about accidents occurring in the pool. But we know from our London story earlier that accidents can happen outside the pool as well. The suggestions here can help administrators be prepared and make this the safest pool season ever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and building industries.