Examining Outdoor Pools

Beyond making sure a pool is compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety (VGB) Act, using security fencing, and providing well-trained lifeguards, what can managers do to increase safety?

A pool cover makes for an added measure of safety.

Start by using signage to educate pool-goers on safe practices, such as:

• Pool rules (no running, no glass, no diving)

• Times when a lifeguard is on duty

• Emergency procedures

• Noting those who are not permitted to swim (someone who is ill or has a bandage or has an open wound).

Since slip-and-fall injuries often occur, a non-slippery deck must surround the pool.

Establish a walking perimeter around the pool at least 4 feet wide. This allows enough space for people to walk safely without tripping over lounge chairs or sunbathers.

Those using umbrellas for shade must keep them as far as possible from the pool, and the umbrellas must be secured to prevent them from being picked up by the wind.

See Clearly

Water clarity is essential to pool safety. It is imperative that the pool water be kept in good condition, and is clear enough for someone to see the screws on the VGB-compliant drain cover.

Visibility is indicative of the correct levels of pH and chlorine. If the pool water is cloudy, the chemicals are out of balance, or the pool does not have enough sanitizer.

“It is important to keep the pH maintained between 7.2 and 7.8. If the pH levels decrease to 7.0 or less, or increase above 7.8, the pool should be closed,” says Steve White, president and owner of Underwater Pool Masters Inc., a professional swimming-pool service company.

“Chlorine works most effectively and safely around 7.5, which is the best ideal pH for the pool.”

Clear markings help people see at a glance the water's depth.

If the pH is above or below the recommended levels, swimmers will experience a stinging sensation in their eyes because the pH of the human eye is between 7.4 and 7.6.

There are several reasons for water-clarity failure, including a dirty filter or an ineffective one because it was not properly matched to the right turnover rate for the pool. However, one problem that can occur literally overnight is the addition of new water to compensate for splash-out.

“Phosphate is added to community water supplies to aid in the preservation of disintegrating metal pipes. Although it is safe for people to drink, you don’t want it in a pool because the phosphates fuel the growth of algae plants,” says White. “This has a negative impact on chlorine’s ability to act as a sanitizer.”

In a big pool when new water is added or a new pool is filled and there are high levels of phosphates in the water, the pool water turns a green tint.

To prevent this, have the fill water tested by a professional water-testing service to determine the content. If the phosphate level is greater than 100 parts per million, a phosphate remover must be added to the pool.

“It doesn’t take too much to affect the water quality,” says White. “If the phosphate level is 100 parts or less, it isn’t an issue, but once you go above that, you’re going to have serious problems with water clarity.”

Getting In And Out

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