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Reducing risk and liability at aquatic facilities

Risk management among pool operators

Many health departments require aquatic facilities to have a comprehensive first aid kit.

In addition to maintaining skills and knowledge, the job of the facility staff is to maintain the pool equipment to ensure it is functioning properly. This includes, but is not limited to, the equipment that patrons might use, the equipment staff uses to maintain the facility, as well as the rescue equipment needed to handle emergencies.

The equipment required for pool operations include: pumps, filters, chemical feeders, and heaters. Unfortunately, each year there are incidences of illness outbreaks and chemical exposures that lead to injuries. This can be caused by poor equipment care by the facility. If the pumps are not doing their job, then the water can become cloudy. Water clarity is essential in seeing a distressed patron underwater. Cloudy water can delay a rescue effort because of the lifeguard’s limited sight to the bottom of the pool. Maintaining adequate circulation and filtration is an important factor in maintaining water clarity and reducing the risk of drowning.

Chemical feeders play a vital role in ensuring there is adequate disinfectant residual in the water. These feeders reduce the risk of disease transmission by feeding the appropriate amount of disinfectant to inactivate any pathogens that might be present in the water.

Assessing emergency and safety equipment

The equipment used to handle emergencies must also be maintained. Lifeguards and other staff members must know the location of the safety equipment and be trained on how to use it. Equipment may include: rescue tubes, reaching poles, spine boards, and AEDs. The emergency response plan (ERP) should specify the equipment needed for any given emergency.

Daily inspections of the safety equipment should be conducted to make sure it is in good working condition. For example, the spine board should be examined to assure the head immobilizer is in working condition and the necessary number of restraints for securing the victim to the board is present. Having the equipment ready at any given moment could mean life or death in certain situations. Planning for an emergency each day, or even each shift, can save lives at a pool or spa.

Sudden cardiac arrest can occur at aquatic facilities and portable AED units, which are used to electrically stimulate the heart, can save lives. Additionally, supplemental oxygen delivery is another piece of equipment that is rapidly becoming the standard of care among lifeguards. Increasing oxygen delivery in rescue breathing can reduce brain and cardiac damage. Luckily, when used in conjunction with AEDs, risk is greatly reduced and chances of survival increases.

Other safety equipment, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), is needed by the pool operator when they handle chemicals and should be worn in case of a chemical spill. Lifeguards should also wear PPE to prevent exposure of bodily fluids when handling victims during a rescue. Chemical showers and eyewash stations are also important and may be required by local regulations. Likewise, many health departments require aquatic facilities to have a comprehensive first aid kit that includes adhesive bandages, trauma dressings, roller gauze, latex and non-latex gloves, pocket mask, and first aid tape.

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