Aquatic Biohazard Management


The ever-present threat of communicable disease transmission makes protection from blood-borne pathogens an important issue. While it is important to take the necessary precautions to prevent disease transmission in general, it is especially critical in a response to a medical emergency. Before any hazard is encountered, blood-borne pathogen training should be provided for all potentially exposed staff. This training is available on The Redwoods Institute. In a situation, the use of gloves and a rescue mask are the primary protective measures. These tools should be utilized during all training and practice drills to help ensure their utilization during a real emergency.

All biological spills (blood, fecal matter, vomit, or other body fluids) should be treated as biohazard and universal precautionary procedures should be followed:

  • Use a barrier: Assume that all biological matter is infected. The use of gloves, masks, face shields, gowns, and other barriers will protect you from contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Wash your hands: Wash your hands with soap and warm water after you come in contact with any blood or body fluids – even if you are wearing gloves.
  • Clean up: Clean surfaces that have been exposed to blood or body fluids with a mixture of water and household bleach (10 parts water to 1 part bleach). Wear gloves during the clean-up process.
  • Keep all biohazard waste separate: All biohazard waste and biohazard-exposed items should be placed in appropriately labeled red bags or containers. Biohazard waste itself should go into red labeled containers; sharp objects should go into properly labeled, rigid sharps-containers; linens, towels, or salvageable clothing should be placed in properly labeled bags and should be washed separately from other laundry with detergent and hot water.

No warnings for blood-borne diseases transmitted through water are issued by the CDC, but safeguards are still important. If any bodily fluid is evident during a water rescue take the following precautions:

  • In open water, approach the victim from upstream, or on the wave side.
  • When using the rescue tube, keep as much water as possible between you and the victim.
  • Keep your head out of the water to prevent contamination through eye, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid contact with bleeding areas when removing a victim from the water. If accidental contact is made, wash the blood off immediately.
  • After contact with a bleeding victim, always wash your entire body with disinfecting soap.

While no immediate water treatment is necessary for minor cuts or spills in pools, it may be wise to clear the pool for serious traumas involving bleeding or for the psychological well being of members or staff. In either case, make sure that your pool chemicals are at the appropriate levels.

The threat of viral or bacterial spread from fecal matter and/or vomit contamination in the pool must be treated very carefully. Please refer to RMA: Aquatic Fecal Contamination Protocol for more information.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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