Aquatic Safety Review, Part 1

A recent trend by some companies is to only report safety issues when more than several people have been hurt and only when the sum total of insurance claims are greater than the cost of fixing the problem.

Related Article: Safety and Risk Management Checklist

It’s difficult to comprehend why some organizations behave in this manner. Perhaps it’s because their organizational focus is on income generation and not on enhancing the quality of the lives of consumers…

As an advocate for safety and risk management, the value of educational and recreational programming can only be truly assessed against the outcome of the experience. Having fun and being safe are, of course, critical to this outcome.

And, whereas program delivery can only be as good as the staff, employees deserve the same safe and healthy environment that program participants are owed.

What follows is Part I of a three-part guide to the important checkpoints in an aquatics facility, whether indoors or outdoors, to help ensure safety.

Part I will focus on Structures and the Pool Environment; Part II will focus on Electrical and Mechanical Engineering; and, Part III will focus on Pool Equipment and Policy Development.

Compare these points to your own safety checklist and use this as an opportunity to review and update your list as appropriate. And, if there’s something on your list that we’ve missed, let us know so that we can update…


Whether your organization has an indoor or outdoor aquatic facility, there are important structural components that are critical to safety and risk management.

I have chosen first to address these structural characteristics in terms of ceilings, walls, floors, and the pool (tank). There are obvious differences between indoor and outdoor facilities.

Regardless of the facility type, from the standpoint of a checklist, ceilings, walls, floors and the pool need to be structurally evaluated as appropriate.

Ceilings: Aquatic facility ceilings should be visually inspected by staff on a regular basis and inspected annually by an engineering professional or firm on contract.

In an indoor aquatic structure, the greatest concern is with the ceiling over the pool. In outdoor pools the ceilings will likely be limited to the office, filter house, and storage spaces unless the locker rooms and shower areas are also covered.

The staff should look for changes in the ceilings, such as discoloration of ceiling materials and other signs of moisture build-up and visible changes in the integrity of ceiling materials.

The engineer should annually inspect the integrity of the ceilings, such as materials that span the facility (especially load bearing beams, etc.); materials that are suspended from the ceiling (insulation, lights, speakers, etc.); and, check for moisture content or build-up in any materials that would be damaged/weakened by moisture absorption.

There can also be visible signs of moisture problems on the outside walls of indoor aquatic facilities, especially when a vapor barrier has failed and moisture is getting into the exterior shell of the facility (these signs are most evident during the winter months in colder parts of the country and include discoloration, cracking due to expansion/contraction of materials, and so on).

Facility maintenance staff or contracted professionals should replace all damaged or affected materials as soon as possible. In the case of moisture build-up it is likely that the integrity of the roof has been breached, the facility either does not adequately manage the aquatic environment with a dehumidifier that is designed for the facility or that the dehumidifier is failing to operate as necessary.

Failure in the dehumidification process in an indoor aquatic facility is a serious problem and needs to be addressed immediately by HVAC-R professionals who understand pool area dehumidification.

In a worst case, a weakened roof can collapse, perhaps while under the added stress of winter (wet snow/ice) when participants and staff are active in the facility.

Walls (and windows): Walls should be visually inspected by staff on a regular basis and inspected annually by an engineering professional or firm on contract.

The staff should look for changes in the walls, such as discoloration of wall sections or vertical streaking and other signs of moisture build-up, the visible presence of mold/mildew, and cracks or adverse changes in expansion joints/seals or between walls and windows/doors, etc.

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Related posts:

  1. Aquatic Safety Review, Part 3
  2. Aquatic Safety Review, Part 2
  3. Safety and Risk Management Checklist
  4. Camp Aquatic Safety
  5. Maintaining Safety
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