Swimming pools are an enjoyable amenity for apartment communities, condominium associations and homeowner associations alike. However, if not managed and maintained carefully, they can pose great liability. Follow these six tips for pool safety to help ensure a safe summer.
1. Communicate your expectations for safe swimming and poolside behavior
Swimming pool managers should clearly communicate acceptable poolside and swimming behavior to members. For example, rules should be shared via pool area signage, in membership application materials, through talking points included in the registration process, and on the website. Typical pool rules to be communicated include:
- No running in pool area
- No diving (in shallow areas, or in any part of the pool if it does not include a diving board)
- No wrestling or rough play
- No offensive language
- No prolonged underwater swimming or breath holding
- No glass bottles
- Non-swimmers must be accompanied by a parent/guardian at all times.
2. Implement safeguards for children.
Pools can pose a great risk to children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 700 children—about 8 per day—drown every year. And for every child who dies from drowning, an additional five receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries. These sobering statistics should spur pool managers to take special care to safeguard younger pool members, who tend to be non-swimmers or less proficient swimmers.
Managers should remember that the best prevention is attention. Children should always be monitored closely by a parent or guardian and, if possible, also by a lifeguard. Pool rules should clearly stipulate this. Many pools also require children to wear color-coded wristbands that correspond to the child’s level of swimming ability. For example, a red wristband might indicate to the lifeguard and anyone in the vicinity that this child is a non-swimmer and should not be allowed in the water except when a parent/guardian is within arm’s reach.
Some community pools may also have the resources to offer swim lessons or refer members to other locations for lessons. Swim lessons are another way to safeguard younger members by teaching them to swim more safely and become stronger in the water.
3. Keep the pool area safe.
Many safeguards for the pool area are not only a good idea, but mandated by law in certain areas. Nearly all jurisdictions, for example, require any pool to be enclosed by a fence.
And managers or homeowners should regularly check the latches of fence gates and the condition of the fence. Some surfaces become especially slippery when wet. When designing and installing a pool, homeowners or builders should research deck and pool perimeter materials and make selections based on safety, not merely on appearance. If certain sections of the pool deck are regularly wet and slippery, consider replacing those sections with other materials or applying non-skid adhesives.
Finally, managers or homeowners should regularly survey the pool area. With regular walk-throughs, they can protect members and residents from simple dangers like tripping hazards, broken glass (if glass is not already prohibited), unlatched gates, et cetera.
4. Ensure a safe pool by monitoring the water quality and the pool drains.
Maintaining the water quality of your pool is crucial. Most community associations and apartment communities hire a pool management company to ensure the right balance of chlorine or other chemicals that keep the pool clean. Commercial pools are required to test the water every hour that the pool is open, and to record their findings. For private pools, testing the water at least twice per week is recommended.
Pool drains have also been shown to be a safety hazard if not covered property. Children are especially susceptible to suction entrapment if the drain has a missing or broken cover. Check your drain’s cover and make sure that it is compliant with the ANSI/ASME test standards.
5. Provide excellent staff training and encourage open communication.
According to WPM Regional Property Manager Donna Sturdivant, the experience and skill level of the lifeguard makes the ultimate difference between a successful, injury-free summer and a pool season marred by incidents.
“When a lifeguard is good,” says Sturdivant, “the pool has fewer issues with member behavior, rule infractions, and avoidable injuries and that creates a more positive experience for members. Problems are most likely to arise when lifeguards are not vigilant.”
Sturdivant recommends that community managers meet face-to-face with the pool management company and lifeguards before summer begins and discuss what went well last season and areas where improvements are needed. This preemptive meeting also opens the lines of communication between community managers and the staff directly overseeing the pool, making it easier to address any problems that arise during the summer.
6. Make sure your closed pool is still a safe pool.
Your commitment to residents’ safety continues even when the pool closes at the end of the season. Make sure that your pool is covered and/or partially drained, and the pool area is secured properly for the off season. And remember that rules about fence enclosures still apply, even when the pool is closed.