Safeguarding Aquatic Facilities

The protection and safety of guests at aquatic facilities has gained recent attention with the passing of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 (H.R. 1721). President Bush signed this into law late in 2007 as the first federal pool and spa safety legislation. The legislation provides incentives for states to adopt comprehensive pool safety laws that will protect children from horrible, life-threatening injuries and deaths caused by dangerous pool and spa drains. Two publicized accidents involving 6-year old children this past summer renewed interest in the cause-and-effect of suction entrapment in swimming pools, which encouraged legislators to take action.

Although aquatic industry leaders have been wrestling with the entrapment issue for years, determining the best ways to prevent suction entrapment is still a concern. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will be monitoring the movement, and how the CPSC interprets the wording of the Pool and Spa Safety Act should be watched with interest by all aquatic professionals.

Designers and engineers involved with new construction have placed emphasis on dual main drains for years. Additional safety devices are now available. Safety Vacuum Release Systems, as well as the elimination of direct suction through gravity flow systems, are two additional areas of protection that should be considered. It is the responsibility of everyone involved in facility design and development to adhere to current as well as proposed anti-entrapment mechanics.

Addressing The Issues

In most of the tragic cases involving entrapment, the cause appears to be based on broken or missing drains. These accidents could have been avoided by concerted observation of the pool drains by the aquatic staff on duty. Pool-operator courses should include a discussion of the importance of constant review of the mechanical equipment and an emphasis on being able to see the main drain clearly, as well as checking the drains for any breaks or loose screws.

Prior articles in this series have reiterated the importance of safety and protection of the public. The safe use and handling of chemicals, an understanding of hydraulics and an awareness of electrical currents are only a few areas in which the aquatic manager must be educated. When a crisis occurs, it places the facility in jeopardy.

The primary duty of an aquatic facility manager must be to ensure the health and safety of the bathers. All staff must be educated to identify risks and know how to reduce the incidence of injury to patrons. The first step in hazard elimination is a review of the entire facility. Accident reports should be filed with every incident, no matter how irrelevant it may seem to the operator.

The checklists should include the following guidelines, and all aquatic managers should be alert for potential hazards. A second set of eyes may enhance the identification of hazards.

1. Inspection of the main drains should be done daily to ensure there are no loose or missing covers. In addition, any other suction device should be examined closely. Dedicated vacuum lines should be covered and, if possible, a separate valve in the filter room should be closed while the facility is open. Skimmers must contain skimmer baskets, and deck covers are to be screwed on tightly.

2. Check the filter system for any cracks or leaks. The filters are operating under pressure, and any cracking or leaking may result in a malfunction of the operation, resulting in injury to the maintenance staff or destroying the filter room environment.

3. Review the interior surface of the pool and check for cracks, loose plaster and falling tile, all of which may result in a patron being scratched or cut.

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