Maintaining Safety

The owner or operator of a public/semi-public swimming pool must do everything possible to assure the safety of patrons and to safeguard them from injury or incident.

Swimming pools must be chemically treated and mechanically cleaned so that the user is not misled by water turbidity or cloudiness when judging its depth.

Ladders, diving boards, slides, handrails and other apparatus must be inspected regularly and kept in good repair. Main-drain covers must be firmly fixed in place.

Underwater lights must meet U.L. Standards, must be waterproof and operate properly to avoid electrical leakage and must provide appropriate illumination so that the bottom of the entire pool can be seen easily during evening swim and recreation activities.

The pool decking in surrounding areas, especially steps, must be kept free of algae and other slippery substances. Adequate lighting must be provided to sufficiently illuminate the entire area during evening activities in, on, and around the pool area. Fencing and self-closing gates must be in proper operating condition. The area must be free of broken glass, obstacles and debris.

State and local health officials advocate the need for education and certification of pool operators to assure that health codes and standards are met to provide a healthy and sanitary environment. The responsibility of the pool operator includes, but is not limited to the following:

Water Testing

To assure disinfection levels of pools and spas, water testing must be done every hour the pool is in use. This may be accomplished manually or mechanically.

Water Filtration and Circulation

Swimming pools and spas are subject to constant contamination from foreign matter brought in by swimmers, wind and articles used in and around the water.

Filtration is the mechanical process of removing this insoluble matter from swimming pool and spa water. Codes require that the entire volume of pool water be re-circulated through the filter in 6-8 hours. Filtration systems and media must be maintained at their peak performance to assure a turnover rate of total volume every 6-8 hours.


Chlorination both sanitizes and cleans the water by oxidizing organic impurities. A free chlorine residual of 1.0–3.0 ppm is preferred. Proper pH control (7.2–7.6) provides better chlorine efficiency.

Water Clarity

Water clarity is important for appearance, hygiene and safety. Clarity is the combined result of effective filtering, even distribution of chemicals, constant movement of the pool water or circulation and proper continuous water chemistry.

Proper chemical readings with poor circulation and filtering will produce poor clarity during heavy or prolonged use, and vice versa.

The swimming pool operator must routinely check water clarity, chemistry and operational conditions of the re-circulation system. These checks should be made hourly when the pool is in use. Gauge and meter readings should be recorded daily.

Cloudy water conditions are caused by low chlorine, high alkalinity, high pH, or a combination of these. It is possible to have proper chemical readings and still have cloudy water during high swimmer load if the flow rate of the circulation system is low or if there is poor filtration.

The bottom of the pool or spa must be clearly visible from the pool deck at all times. If this clarity standard is not met, the pool or spa must be closed until the condition is corrected.

Safety and Rescue Equipment

Items include, but are not limited to, shepherd's crooks and poles, ring buoy, first aid and resuscitation equipment, lifelines, spinal immobilization equipment, emergency telephone, pool/spa rule signs, warning signs, etc.

The availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are now recommended and are being implemented in aquatic recreation facilities throughout the country. Other resuscitation equipment includes Personal Resuscitation Masks or Shields, Bag-Valve-Mask Resuscitators (appropriate sizes), and Manual Hand-Held Suction Devices.

Water Depth and Depth Markings

Identification of changes in pool-water depth with 4" high numbers on both the vertical wall and on the deck above must be provided.

NO DIVING signs on the pool ledge and surrounding perimeter walls of the building should also be provided around all shallow water areas. We advocate the prohibition of diving in less than 9' of water and that at least 25' of clearance in front of the diver be provided. If diving boards are used, then this depth must be appropriately increased, depending upon the size and type of diving board, and the activities (recreational vs. competitive) for which the diving board will be used.

Pool Closure

Closure of the pool or spa is recommended if (a) there is no or inadequate circulation or filtration; (b) there is insufficient disinfectant or the facility fails to meet other chemical standards; (c) water clarity is lacking, and the pool bottom is not visible from the pool deck; (d) the bottom drain grate or a vortex drain in a spa are not in place and secured; (e) an unsafe condition is present; etc.

Certified Pool/Spa Operators

The Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) is a designation provided to someone who successfully completes a course of instruction provided by the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF).

The NSPF introduced the CPO program in 1972 and its Seal of Approval to assure pool and spa owners from residential to Olympic-sized municipal and school pools that their facilities are under the supervision of a professional.

While swimming pools are in operation, a certified or designated pool operator should always be available. According to the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the duties of the pool operator include:

1. Understanding current codes and practices established by Health Codes and national aquatic certification agencies.

2. Test and adjust water chemistry to meet standards for oxidation and sanitation.

3. Maintain and interpret operational and re-circulation efficiency of various filters and filter media systems.

4. Inspect and assure cleanliness and appearance of the general pool area.

5. Maintain and sanitize locker rooms, restrooms, showers and pool decks to present no health or accident hazards to users.

6. Check and interpret gauges, flow meters and monitoring equipment for operational efficiency.

7. Understand practices of operation and preventive maintenance for pumps, suction lines, drains, piping, bactericidal equipment, balance tanks, valves, hair and lint and skimmer traps and flow and control switches of each system.

8. Supervise and develop a personnel program.

9. Develop budgets and practices for purchasing, accounting and controlling within agency policies.

10. Develop emergency and accident procedures.

11. Communicate and develop educational programs for the pool program staff and the public.

12. Design administrative practices and procedures for record keeping, evaluations, reports and inventories.

13. Be current in the developments of new pool equipment, facility designs and operational techniques.

Besides the CPO Certification program, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) administers an Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO) Program, which is similar to that of the NSPF CPO Program. Many states, counties, or local Health Departments also offer or approve of other Swimming Pool Operator programs.

Gerry Dworkin is a professional aquatics safety and water rescue consultant for Lifesaving Resources. Gerry has a strong background in Aquatics Safety, Water Rescue, EMS and Technical Rescue and is currently a Deputy Chief for the Harrisville (N.H.) Fire Department. Lifesaving Resources conducts Aquatics Safety, Water Rescue, Ice Rescue, and Swiftwater Rescue training programs throughout the U.S. Gerry also consults as an expert witness in drowning and aquatic-injury litigation. For more information on Lifesaving Resources, access their website at

Bryan BuchkoComment