Supplement Feature - February 2011
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The Right Safeguards

Protecting Pool Patrons, Reducing Risk

By Wynn St. Clair

Rules for Pools

Sanitary water means healthier (and therefore happier) patrons and reduces liability. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has aggressively studied water illnesses, offers these rules for cleaner pools:

1. Lead Your Staff

Of course, every facility has its own pressing priorities. And, of course, it's hard to juggle those demands.

However, all aquatic centers must make health a priority. The single greatest action you can take against water illness is to create an RWI protection plan. Be sure to back up your plan with resource investment and commitment. This will set the tone for the rest of the staff. Though an aggressive response after an outbreak is good, it's much more responsible (and cost-effective) to be proactive.

2. Develop Partnerships

Build a communication bridge between your facility and the local health department. This is an excellent way to get information on other outbreaks occurring in your area. If, for example, you begin to hear about outbreaks at other pools, day-care centers and schools your patrons attend, then take proactive measures and increase your vigilance to protect your facility. In the case of another local pool closing after an outbreak, work with health officials to educate the public—especially the swimmers who will be descending on your pool from the closed facility. Be sure to use the media, too, to help spread the message. Ask them to remind the public that no one should swim if they have diarrhea.

3. Educate Pool Staff

In the war against RWIs, there's no greater weapon than education. Make sure your pool operator, at a minimum, has attended a training course on waterborne illness. Your employees should be as well versed on good hygiene methods as they are on CPR techniques and lifesaving skills. Empower your staff to inform parents of proper poolside hygiene. They should be able to explain in an informative, yet inoffensive manner, why behavior such as using picnic tables to change diapers is unacceptable. This may dictate putting an older, more confident lifeguard in charge of the kiddie area.

4. Educate Swimmers & Parents

A proactive staff must educate the public on ways to prevent waterborne illness. First, ask bathers to not swim if they have diarrhea. Also instruct them to refrain from swallowing pool water. Other key elements include encouraging patrons to practice good hygiene (showering before swimming), make frequent diaper checks, take children on regular trips to the restroom, change diapers in the restroom, not poolside, and wash children's rear ends thoroughly with soap and water before swimming.

5. Evaluate Aquatic Facility Design

When building a new facility, consult industry colleagues and health workers about how to best design the facility to prevent outbreaks. The kiddie pool, for example, should not share the same filtration system as other parts of the aquatic center. Increasing the water turnover rates in kiddie pools also may reduce the chances of a waterborne illness. This decision, of course, must be made in conjunction with regulators to prevent suction problems.

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