Feature Article - April 2008
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Life Preservers

Meeting the Challenges of 21st Century Aquatic Risk

By Hayli Morrison

The Legislative Solution

Much as the CDC hopes to improve legislative uniformity across the 50 states with its Model Aquatic Health Code, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) is targeting the same goal. The organization has committees reviewing and updating 14 ANSI standards. The standards, in various stages of review and revision, address everything from hot tubs to pool enclosures to avoiding suction entrapment. APSP has even organized a Recreational Water Quality Committee, which is looking at similar issues as CDC's Model Aquatic Health Code committee.

"State codes can become very outdated and cumbersome, and may not be up to industry standards," said Jill White, chair of the writing committee for APSP-12, a brand new standard that will address aquatic safety and risk management. "If all the states look to one guide as a basis for updating their codes, then it will bring everyone up to date and ultimately save lives."

The APSP creates its standards specific to the nine different classifications of aquatic facilities. That way, it takes into account the specific characteristics and practical safety and risk management considerations of each different type of facility. The writing committees are taking a very thorough, research-oriented approach to crafting the standards. For instance, APSP-12 includes categories like lifeguard definition, lifeguard physical attributes, safety signs, child protection, volunteer training and even rafts and flotation toys.

In analyzing existing state codes regarding aquatic safety and risk management, the writing committee found a lot of inconsistencies from state to state, White said. Furthermore, there was very little information about patron responsibility and patron education on risk minimization. White said the new standards will be ideal because they are crafted by people with first-hand knowledge of aquatic safety and risk management issues.

"These are very highly respected leaders in the industry. Truly, the standards come from those people who understand how those facilities operate and what is practical," she said. "We're trying to put forth guidance that states the objective of safety without being so restrictive that it would hinder operations.

"A seemingly well-intended law could create unintended consequences and restrict operations of an aquatics facility because it was written by people who don't really understand," White added. "Involving aquatics professionals in the process creates a much more user-friendly product."