Feature Article - April 2006
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Safe Swimming

Managing risk at aquatic facilities

By Kyle Ryan


Could there be more to keep in mind when running an aquatics facility? Probably. As everything becomes more specialized, and the industry learns more, the list of risk will probably grow. But it's not impossible to address those risks; it just takes vigilance. For Evans, it comes down to hiring staff who knows what they're doing and investing in their training. A knowledgeable, alert team automatically will reduce the risk considerably. Training them is key.

"First and foremost, it's absolutely critical that a facility manager needs to establish in writing appropriate standard operating procedures for personnel and emergency-response plans," Dworkin says. "Their personnel need to be drilled in those protocols so that, when it hits the fan, they know automatically how to respond."

While it's a good idea to look at how risk has been addressed historically, Griffiths warns against relying too much on the past for guidance. Take entrapment as an example: What worked 20 years ago is probably dangerous negligence now.

"They can't just do it the old-fashioned way," he says. "They have more resources so they have to look at more references. If they want to base their risk-management procedures on what's readily available through those national training organizations, they're not going to be doing their jobs. They're going to be doing what the majority of people are doing, but that's not enough."

Dworkin always stresses a couple of different axioms with the people he encounters. Murphy's Law figures prominently.

"Anything that can happen will happen, and when it happens, it happens at the least opportune time," he says. "And Mother Nature's a bitch."

He also stresses the rule of numbers: The more people who use a facility increase the likelihood of a significant accident.

"Every day that goes by that you don't have a significant incident brings you one day closer to when it's going to happen," he says. "As a result, facility managers and operators and lifeguards need to be prepared so that when it does happen, they're ready for it."