Feature Article - April 2003
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Keeping Up Appearances

Good housekeeping and maintenance strategies for aquatic centers and other rec facilities

By Kelli Anderson

At the City of Westminster, Colo.,the right
maintenance strategies require constant
attention and effort, all year round.

Knowing when to test water, when to change it out and how to treat it varies greatly depending on the volume of water, the average bather load, and conditions with spray and splash, to name a few. Waterparks, for example, require a great deal more frequent testing of filtration systems, pumps and water quality than your basic recreation facility pool.

Ultimately, having qualified, certified professionals in charge of water quality is essential to aquatic maintenance. However, the tendency is to tack these vital responsibilities onto the job duties of those hired for other positions.

"Basically, lifeguards are not mechanics and they do not belong in the pump room—period," Basnight says of one common mistake. Having a staff person educated as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO), Aquatics Facility Operator (AFO) or pool operator with the YMCA is one way to optimize your chances of getting the right person for the job.

Perhaps the least popular—and therefore most often neglected—maintenance task that can make such an important contribution to the quality of a facility is none other than housekeeping. Their attention to detail not only makes the difference visually but also contributes significantly to the longevity of equipment.

"You really need a team of people devoted to that task," says Gavin Attwood, Apex Center manager in Arvada, Colo. "It's often tagged onto someone's task and it immediately becomes the least popular job—there is a lack of ownership as to who should be doing it."

Transforming this unpopular stepchild of maintenance into royalty takes some intentional effort. At Apex, for example, its team is called the "hospitality crew," demonstrating an insight that "what's in a name?" matters. It is essential that these teams be made to know they are valuable and that the quality of their work is very important. Inclusion in team meetings and recognition for their contribution leads to high esteem and pride in their work.

Check it out

Whether it's a hospitality crew, the pool engineer or the pump crew, having set routines with checklists is the way to ensure everything that needs to be done is actually getting done. Checklists work both for the daily routine as well as for the once-a-year makeovers (more on that to come).

Good maintenance comes from good teamwork,
like at this Life Time Fitness facility.

Checklists are also the ideal format for translating operations and maintenance manual recommendations into the needed schedules that keep facility components looking and operating at their best. According to Alison Osinski, Ph.D., and owner of Aquatic Consulting Services in San Diego, this kind of attention to component care is frequently overlooked and neglected, leading to needless corrosion and costly repairs. Having a clear chain-of-command to oversee all those checklists is a must.

"People from different departments don't work with each other, they don't talk to each other," Dr. Osinski says. "Somebody should be in charge and should receive a weekly summary of what's going on. There should be daily operating procedures and checklists that should be checked off as they're completed and then signed off by a supervisor who is ensuring that these things were done satisfactorily."

Making sure that communication is flowing in all directions and that someone is ultimately at the top who can understand what's being said will keep major maintenance gaps from occurring.