Feature Article - February 2022
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Safe In (and Out of) the Water

Aquatic Facility Safety From Design Through Operation

By Dave Ramont


Inspect & Assess

One service DeRosa offers is facility inspections, and he said that a reputable inspector will not only benchmark against the applicable state code, but will also provide insight as to whether the facility is meeting the standards set forth in the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), the American National Standard for Public Swimming Pools and other applicable codes and standards. "This review may confirm areas where the facility meets or exceeds industry standard, while also identifying gaps between facility operations and industry best practices."

DeRosa has been a lifeguard, instructor trainer, pool operator and safety officer, and he pointed out that inspectors familiar with lifeguarding standards and facility operations may "look beyond the codes and consider how specific practices in place at a facility could be adjusted to minimize risks and improve safety."

Aquatic Safety Research Group (ASRG) also provides water safety and risk management programs and services, and they offer onsite evaluations and safety audits. "Many of the facilities we inspect won't be renovated in the near future," said Founder Tom Griffiths, "so we try to make their facility safer and more enjoyable by adding climbing walls to replace three-meter diving boards, marking the pool deck more clearly for depth changes, adding lifelines to have safer shallow-water areas and intermediate depths up to five feet."

Griffiths recommends incorporating creative signage using warning shapes, warning colors and warning symbols to be effective. "When pools are being renovated, we encourage lots of shallow-water areas and discourage deep water unless needed for specific aquatic activities. Also, we try to have visual obstructions eliminated."

ADG often performs needs assessments, where they visit sites to analyze facility components and design to determine opportunities for updates and renovations. Gable said that bringing facilities into compliance with current codes and standards is often a goal, as is addressing maintenance and operations conditions. "In renovations, we often find clients wanting to upgrade their chemical systems from situations of hand-pouring chemicals to mini bulk systems with third-party chemical deliveries, allowing their staff to handle chemicals less often. Many clients are also moving toward sophisticated chemical control monitors with advanced safety features and remote-monitoring capabilities."

She went on to explain that when upgrading, it's important to ensure that the chemical feed systems are interlocked with the pool circulation system and installed with flow sensors to ensure chemicals are only fed when the circulation system is activated and operating properly. "The CDC has noted numerous chemical exposures when these conditions are not achieved, and some have resulted in staff and patron hospitalization."

Advancements in chemical and filtration automation have made significant improvements in water quality at outdoor facilities and both water and air quality indoors, according to Gable, as has secondary disinfection equipment such as ultraviolet, AOP and ozone systems. "The ability of these systems to eliminate chloramines and common recreational water illnesses (RWIs) has been huge for the health and wellness of swimmers."

Additionally, "Shade is also being added to outdoor pools for the comfort and safety of patrons and staff, and pool and deck surfaces are frequently being renovated with safety in mind ," she said.