Pool Chemical Safety

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We have seen several chemical related incidents at YMCAs. Each involved the evacuation of staff and guests…many received minor injuries and some were hospitalized. Contributing factors included improper procedures (patrons allowed in the pool during chlorine system maintenance), employee error (mixing incompatible chemicals), inadequate maintenance (a leaky pipe), and inexperienced personnel (combined with poor communication and lack of supervision).

Chlorine, the most common pool chemical, is extremely dangerous if not handled correctly. The inhalation of chlorine gas causes violent lung spasms and can result in death if too much is inhaled. Individuals exposed to chlorine gas should seek immediate medical attention. Chlorine for pool treatment is available in several forms: gaseous, liquid, and solid (powdered, granular, or tablet). Even the use of solid or liquid chlorine requires that general chemical safety precautions be followed as chlorine gas can form from other states if appropriate protocols are not followed. Please observe the following.

  1. Allow only authorized personnel to handle any chemicals…maintain a current list.
  2. Doors to all chemical storage areas should be kept locked…only authorized users should have the key.
  3. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment…gloves, safety glasses and/or face shield, and a mask or respirator as needed.
  4. Maintain a current Safety Data Sheet, keep it where it is readily accessible, and ensure all who deal with chlorine are familiar with its contents.
  5. Read and precisely follow all instructions on a chemical label. Mix chemicals only as specified.
  6. Use a dedicated scoop for each powdered or granular chemical. Do not use a scoop for more than one chemical. Keep the scoops clean.
  7. Never add water to chemicals; always add the chemicals to the water…and do that slowly.
  8. Never mix any chemical with powdered or liquid chlorine.
  9. Keep all chemicals in their original containers.
  10. Keep the area clean and dry. Do not use a water hose to clean the chemical area.
  11. Keep chemicals covered except when removing product; replace covers immediately after use.
  12. Clean and decontaminate the area immediately after any spillage…what that specifically entails depends upon the chemical spilled.
  13. Keep chemicals away from electrical equipment and/or flames.
  14. Dispose of chemical bags or containers in separate specifically labeled containers. Do not place hazardous materials into common garbage.
  15. Do not dispose of excess chemicals in the sewer.
  16. Maintain a self-contained breathing gas mask in the immediate vicinity if gaseous chlorine is used.

A gaseous chlorination system requires that the following safety practices be followed as well:

  1. The presence of chlorine gas should be conspicuously posted on the door and on each tank. Your fire department should be informed of its presence.
  2. Only trained personnel should operate the chlorinator or should handle chlorine tanks.
  3. Chlorine tank exchanges should be made only when no guests are in the pool area with an additional staff member monitoring the process but not exposed to the potential vapors.
  4. Your emergency action plan in the event of a gas leak should address first aid for victims of gas inhalation and evacuation of the facility and surrounding area. All staff should know how to perform first aid for gas inhalation injuries.
  5. Frequently check for leaks with commercial ammonium hydroxide (produces white vapor in presence of chlorine). Document your checks.

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.

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