Supplement Feature - February 2010
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Serve & Protect

Aquatic Safety & Staffing

By Richard Zowie

In any industry, safety is a vital issue. Today's tragic accidents often become tomorrow's guidelines. When accidents occur, facility managers work to ensure the accidents never happen again.

Facilities work to minimize accidents outside the pool area by using rubber mats and having strict rules barring running and horse play. Work is also being done to try to minimize the problems inside the pool to ensure the risks of recreational water illnesses are reduced, to make sure public pools abide by the Virginia Graeme-Baker Act, to use the latest technology to combat chloramines and to make sure lifeguards are up to date on the latest guidelines and techniques for water rescue.

Sometimes an accident can be localized and quickly corrected. Other times, accidents result in serious bodily injury or even death. Regulations are eventually issued. Aquatic facility directors are aware that practicing safety involves installing and maintaining the right equipment and making sure workers and patrons abide by rules to minimize (and, when possible, eliminate) dangers. Failure to do so can not only result in injury or death, but also in a potential lawsuit and patrons taking their business elsewhere.

Recreational Water Illlnesses

For some, swimming in a pool is a time to cool off and feel refreshed. With pools being chlorinated and treated with other chemicals designed to kill or subdue germs, they may even think of swimming pools as a pristine place—almost as good as taking a bath.

They couldn't be more wrong.

Pools (along with waterparks, hot tubs and decorative water fountains, as well as oceans, lakes and rivers) can be breeding grounds for recreational water illnesses. A swimmer can acquire RWIs by breathing, swallowing or having contact with contaminated water. The water can become contaminated when someone with an illness like diarrhea swims. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average swimmer has about 0.14 grams of fecal matter on their bottoms. When swimming in a pool, the feces can get washed off. Even if trace amounts are inadvertently swallowed by another swimmer, the swimmer can become sick. RWIs can also cause gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye or neurological illnesses and even wound infections.

Some may think they're safe from illnesses if they're in a hot tub. After all, isn't the water in a hot tub warm enough to kill harmful germs?

Actually, no. One common skin infection that can be acquired from a hot tub is "hot tub rash." Chlorine and other agents that help to disinfect water tend to evaporate quicker in the higher temperatures of these tubs. Respiratory illnesses, the CDC reports, can also come from hot tub use if the tubs aren't properly maintained.