By Anne-Maria Quin and Fatih Sekercioglu
Authors’ note: This article provides an update on what has transpired with the London, Ont.-based Middlesex-London Health Unit’s (MLHU’s) ‘Public Pool & Spa Operators Regulatory Training Program’ since it received the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals’ (APSP’s) Dr. R. Neil Lowry Grant in 2014. The MLHU’s article, “Setting the bar high: The Middlesex-London Health Unit strives to achieve excellence” published in the December 2014 issue of Pool & Spa Marketing, outlined the role of public health inspectors (PHIs) and what the MLHU intended to do to enhance the training program.
The relationship between the local health department and the owners, operators, lifeguards, and support staff of public pools and spas, can be seen as multi-dimensional, but from any angle it is directly related and essential to the health and safety of patrons. The inspectors’ role ranges from inspection and enforcement to training and support. Numerous risks can be associated with recreational water facility use, including potential exposure to waterborne illnesses, not to mention life-threatening injuries. Inspectors, and those who manage or oversee the operation of these facilities, can work together to ensure they are operated in compliance with relevant public health legislation.
The MLHU is responsible for the public health-related regulatory oversight of 175 public pools and 50 public spas in London and Middlesex County, resulting in more than 680 routine annual inspections. The regulations Ontario’s public pool and spa operators must adhere to are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Health Protection and Promotion Act. On the other hand, the Ontario Public Health Standards Recreational Water Protocol 2014 provides boards of health with direction on recreational water program delivery. The ultimate goal is to reduce the burden of illness and injury related to recreational water facility use.
Making sense of the legislation
Often, regulations can be overwhelming to navigate. This is where public health and industry members can play a role in developing appropriate training and support.
To increase compliance with regulations, it is important for aquatic facility owners and operators to understand the requirements and to have the tools necessary to conduct their duties appropriately. Public health can assist them by making it easier to follow their obligations under the legislation; among the ways it does this is by providing interpretations of the regulations and lists (taken from the full inspection report) of what inspectors are looking for. These interpretations provide an outline of the minimum safety requirements and aim to bring consistency to the entire inspections process.
Where has the time gone?
Over the last two years, the MLHU has been planning, developing, pilot-testing, and fine-tuning its new enhanced training program. Feedback from operators and inspectors, coupled with best practices collected from published literature, has driven many positive changes in the way the MLHU administers its revised Public Pool & Spa Operators Regulatory Training Program. The program is designed to be accessible, and to provide value-added content, for aquatic facility staff, while improving compliance with provincial pool and spa legislation. The ultimate goal is to reduce and prevent waterborne illness and injuries related to the use of public pool and spa facilities.