Legally Responsible

Protecting an aquatic facility from lawsuits, disputes and bad publicity can be enhanced through understanding the risks involved. Diving, drowning and entrapment are three risks of which the facility manager should be aware at all times. According to Steven Getzoff, an attorney for the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), a diving accident occurs approximately once every 50 million dives and at least 50 percent involve alcohol. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 250 drowning deaths per year for children under the age of five. Many of these incidents can be prevented by monitoring the pool at all times. YMCA and Red Cross training address these risks. The staff also should research and discuss articles from the Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention and Centers for Disease Control.

The unfortunate entrapment accidents of recent years were brought to the attention of legislative bodies, including the federal government. The passing of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 (H.R. 1721), which President Bush signed into law, is the first federal pool and spa safety legislation. According to Getzoff, there have been 126 entrapment incidents since 1980, with 25 deaths. There are five potential entrapment hazards in swimming pool facilities: limb, hair, suction, evisceration and mechanical. The ANSI/APSP-7 Standard addresses all five hazards. The facility manager should review these standards and prepare a full report as to the facility’s compliance.

Recreational Water Illnesses are another type of “accident” that occurs at aquatic facilities, and they are on the rise, according to Dr. Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the NSPF, who states that, in recent years, outbreaks are increasing with over 3,000 people per year becoming ill in documented cases due to exposure to unsanitary pool and spa water. Speaking at the 2007 World Aquatic Health Conference, Lachocki said that it is likely that many more people are affected, but the outbreaks were not documented. Additionally, of the 800 people who drown in pools and spas each year, almost half are children. He concluded that catastrophic injuries, suction entrapment, chemical incidents and the associated law suits, insurance cost and negative publicity weigh heavily on future growth prospects.

It is critical for the aquatic facility managers to understand state and local health codes, and be in full compliance at all times. Some facilities have undertaken even stricter guidelines to further eliminate risk of an accident. It is the facility operator and manager’s responsibility to know and follow these codes. The “negligence of omission” as well as the “negligence of commission” may be the basis of legal action if the facility does not follow the health code.

Although accidents cannot be totally prevented, education and training of staff on every aspect of risk management will prepare them, and prevent unwanted legal lawsuits.

Connie Gibson Centrella is Program Director for the online Aquatic Engineering Program at Keiser College eCampus. She is an industry veteran with over 40 years experience in the pool and spa industry. She is a former pool builder with extensive knowledge in pool construction and equipment installation as well as manufacturing.

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NSPF-Certified Instructors

Parks and recreation departments often limit legal liability by having trained and certified instructors on staff. The National Swimming Pool Foundation offers three-day instructor training courses with no more than 5:1 student-to-teacher ratios. Successful instructor candidates receive access at discounted prices for key educational products, like the Handbook for the Certified Pool/Spa Operator certification program, the leading training program in the world. Other valuable educational materials available to instructors include the Aquatic Play Feature Handbook, Pool Operator Primer online training, the Pool Math Workbook and Certified Pool Inspector CD training. For class schedules call (719) 540-9119, or visit www.nspf.org.

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Related posts:

  1. Legally Responsible
  2. Coming Into Compliance
  3. Safeguarding Aquatic Facilities
  4. Fluid In Motion
  5. Design Parameters For Public Swimming Pools

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