Summer is again nearly upon us and it is time to renew efforts to keep our swimming facilities safe. It goes without saying that a single page bulletin cannot address all of the aspects of providing safe aquatic fun. This reminder will give only a few points, but should serve as notice of the many other aspects to be considered, even for a flat-water pool. If your aquatic scene has natural or induced live water (e.g., streams, rivers, ocean, wave pools, etc.), brownnatural-water (e.g., lakes, ponds, lagoons, bays, oceans, etc), or entry devices, then even more preplanning and diligence are required.
- An adequate number of individuals certified or licensed by a nationally recognized aquatic training agency for the specific type of life guarding required must be present whenever bathers are in the swimming area. Adequate is relative to the swimming area, but must be such that every section of the area can be reasonably scanned above and below water by a lifeguard every 10 seconds, and that the lifeguard can get to a distressed swimmer in that section within 10 seconds. Although a rough guideline only, generally the swimmer to lifeguard ratio should not exceed 25:1.
- Lifeguards must be rescue-ready, i.e., clearly identified front and rear as a lifeguard, attired to enter the water without hesitation, equipped with a rescue tube, airway, gloves, and whistle at all times, and physically poised and alert to the task at hand. Personal activities or ancillary duties must not interfere with guarding. More significant tasks (measuring chemical levels, storing equipment, setting lane lines, etc.) should be done while the individual is not assigned to guard the pool so as not to diminish the attention and protection provided to the swimmers.
- Multiple lifeguards must be dispersed and situated so that glare, structural components, and play structures do not compromise their view above or below the water. They should be situated so that their eyes are at least 5' above the water (i.e., standing or in elevated chairs, never sitting in a chair on the pool deck).
- Lifeguards must be constantly scanning. Conversation should not interrupt that scanning. Neither should blank stares, turned head, or other distractions because the average distressed child struggles above water less than 20 seconds before sliding underwater
- Lifeguards must be aware of the swimming capabilities and/or physical challenges of every individual in their section in order to ensure their safety. Children should be tested and appropriately marked for swimming skill. Non-swimmers should restricted to shallow water, and should be additionally protected by being within arms reach of a parent or caregiver, in an organized lesson on activity, and/or be in a properly fitted, US Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Aquatic areas must have controlled access. Pools should be enclosed with a fence at least 4' tall or be contained within a building interior space. Doors or gates should be self-closing and self-latching (with gate latches being at least 45" above grade). Entry to the swimming area should be easily monitored by the guards on duty. Natural swimming areas must be defined by floating ropes or other physical barriers.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.