Supplement Feature - February 2011
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The Right Safeguards

Protecting Pool Patrons, Reducing Risk

By Wynn St. Clair


Protective Padding

Progressive aquatic managers also are shunning outdated slides, diving boards and ladders for not being kid-friendly enough. Morris said operators should look at the equipment as if it were something to be installed at a local playground.

Is your slide built on hard ground and devoid of any padding and safety surfacing? Falling from the apparatus could guarantee a cracked skull or worse.

Do your ladders lack enclosures? Well, a child's foot could slip right through the rungs.

Are the handrails too large for children to fully wrap their hands around? They won't have a secure grip as they climb the 10-foot ladder.

Would you let your child play on the slide? Probably not. It's not safe.

If they were playground slides, many diving boards would violate local and national standards. There would probably be a community uproar, as well.

"I sometimes see things at pools that would never be allowed at playgrounds," Morris said. "It's an industry-wide problem that needs to be addressed."

It's more than just a moral imperative to keep patrons safe. There's also an important financial aspect to providing user-friendly pool ladders. Injuries stemming from ladder falls have resulted in multimillion-dollar lawsuits. By providing safe climbs, aquatic managers reduce the risk of both injury and liability.

Proactive pools are installing padding under their diving boards to cushion falls. The pads increase in thickness depending on the ladder's height. The thickness also meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission's guidelines for falls. The pads are slip-resistant to minimize injuries around the board, as well. They are waterproof, so aquatic managers don't have to worry about mold or mildew.

Some safety-conscious pool managers also have installed padding around the entire deck area. The move protects patrons—especially children who forget the rules and run around the deck—from slipping and falling.

"It may seem like a small thing, but it can prevent a lot of big headaches," Morris said. "There's nothing worse than gaining a reputation for being an aquatic center where people get injured."