Wading Through The Rules

Four initiatives shaping aquatic facilities

By Connie Sue Centrella

When it comes to government regulations and standards in the aquatic industry, there are plenty of changes–enough to make our heads swim. Yet, keeping abreast of these changes is critical for facility managers and pool operators, who are responsible for the health and safety of guests and employees. There are currently four initiatives with which aquatic professionals should be familiar: 

  • The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance
  • Energy-Efficient Codes
  • The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGB).

What is the MAHC?

The Model Aquatic Health Code is meant to serve as a model and guide for local and state agencies to update or implement a pool/spa code in their jurisdiction. There is currently no federal authority for disinfected recreational venues. Also, there is no uniform standard related to the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of aquatic facilities. The responsibility of writing regulations is in the hands of local and state officials. Thus, there is a broad spectrum of ideas on how to monitor and maintain the safety and health of bathers in public facilities. An increase in recreational water-illnesses, drownings, and accidents in and around swimming pools and spas has prompted industry leaders to seek a solution.

Photos courtesy of the National Swimming Pool Foundation

By creating a model code and following it, industry leaders can better assure that the bathing public will visit facilities that are maintained with the highest degree of safety and health. Tracynda Davis, MPH, Director of Environmental Health Programs for the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), based inColorado Springs,Colo., states, “A national code would provide consistency and the ability to update when new science and technology come out. Consistent standards help uniform data collection, which is necessary for illness and injury investigation, and treatment. The Model Aquatic Health Code uses evidence-based data to understand waterborne illness and appropriate treatment for prevention and remediation.”

As reported in a recent news story from the NSPF, only 23 states currently have adopted requirements that public-pool operators complete a minimum two-day training program. Studies cited in the MAHC reinforce the obvious–even minimum training helps operators prevent violations of health codes. “If we are serious about reducing drowning, illness, and injuries, it is time for all states to implement minimum training requirements for people who operate public pools,”Davis adds.

Photos courtesy of the National Swimming Pool Foundation

Unfortunately, the track record for complying with public health codes is poor, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control. This signaled that something needed to change. Pool inspection data from 15 jurisdictions across theU.S. indicated that 12.1 percent of inspections resulted in immediate closure because of the seriousness of identified violations. Consider the following issues in violations, as well as the frequency with which they appear in inspections: 

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