Celebrating 50 Years of Pool Operator Certification
Have you or someone on your staff worked to earn the Certified Pool & Spa Operator (CPO) certification? You’re in good company. The CPO certification program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with more than half a million pool, spa and hot tub industry professionals having earned the credential, which is awarded by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance.
CPO is the world’s leading education and certification program for keeping pools safer and keeping them open. It provides individuals with the knowledge, techniques and skills required for proper pool operations. CPO certification satisfies state and local jurisdiction requirements for pool operator professionals.
The formal introduction of the CPO certification was a benchmark in the realization that those who operated and managed swimming pools needed some type of formal training to safeguard their patrons. In 1973 the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) took the first steps to develop a program that could be taught by well qualified aquatic specialists, by introducing a text that covered the basic knowledge an operator might need.
The late Leif Zars provided space and additional resources to NSPF (known as NSPI at the time) when the CPO program was first introduced in San Antonio, Texas, in 1973. Zars was chair of the national association’s drain cover standard writing committee when it drafted the first standard cited in the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA) that was done with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP).
By 1978, Zars established the first Instructor School Institute, held in Dallas, a move that would allow the CPO course to be offered nationally. Three of the 50 certified candidates (Bruce Carney, Fontaine C. Piper, and Phillip Reynolds) became members of the original Instructor Education Committee, and Piper and Reynolds are still part of the PHTA Instructor Assessment Committee today.
When NSPF and APSP merged into PHTA in 2019, CPO remained the most popular professional certification in the industry. To meet this high demand and ensure all CPO students receive the highest quality of instruction, PHTA offers the CPO Instructor Assessment School twice a year. Currently, there are more than 700 CPO instructors around the world who provide training in 122 different countries.
Over the years, the CPO certification course materials have been updated and expanded to keep pace with changes in technology and in knowledge. The most significant changes occurred in 2005 and again in 2021 with the introduction of a significantly updated operator’s manual.
“The CPO program continues to be the gold standard by which state health departments develop and define their individual standards,” said Fontaine C. Piper, Ph.D., Dean Emeritus of Truman State University and chair of the PHTA Instructor Assessment Committee. “Without the original CPO certification program, the operational quality of aquatic facilities would not be as exceptional as it is today.”