Pool Glare


Glare is a perpetual swimming pool problem. It may be from the sun shining directly on an outdoor pool, illuminating the bubble of a covered pool, or beaming through windows of an indoor pool. It may even be that direct sunlight is not the culprit, as bright hazy days and improperly placed interior lighting can also cause significant problems. Whatever the source, glare can create an almost impenetrable visual barrier for lifeguards that not only prevents them from seeing what is happening underwater, but also increases fatigue and decreases attentiveness. It is one of the greatest obstacles to ensuring a safe swimming experience for your patrons.

While elimination of glare may not be possible, many steps can be taken to ensure a safer environment.

  • Whenever possible, face lifeguards away from any significant light source
    • Move the lifeguards' stations on the pool deck as the sun's position changes during the day
    • Indoor guards should have their back to windows or other bright light whenever possible
    • Outdoor guards should be provided with hats and with shade whenever possible
    • Guards should wear polarized sunglasses for outdoor or bubble-enclosed pools; they may be helpful in some indoor pools that have extensive glass windows or transparent roof covers
  • Elevate the guard's position as much as possible (while maintaining safe entry to the water); the larger the sight angle to the water, the better the visual penetration into the depths of the pool
    • Use (preferably portable) elevated chairs so the guard's eyes are at least 5'-6' above the deck
    • Standing guards should be at the pool's edge, to increase the sight angle into the water and to remove blind spots at the pool's edge
    • Ban all standard height chairs from use by the lifeguard. Due to their low height, the angle of vision is significantly reduced and blind spots at the pool’s edge are increased. The tendency for the chair to magically migrate to the pool wall increases these problems even further.
  • Alleviate the effect of disruptive light sources, whenever possible
    • Install window coatings, overhangs, plantings, shades, or blinds to reduce or eliminate glare
    • Consider underwater lighting and/or increased deck lighting to offset the glare by reducing the illumination differences between underwater, the pool surface, and the glare source

The county health officials in Schenectady, NY once determined that the architect's dream of natural light streaming through the windows of the new high school pool was a lifeguard's nightmare and a health hazard. They declined to allow opening until a suitable solution was provided. Not all health departments are so wise or forceful. Only by understanding on how glare is affecting your facility and taking corrective measures to ensure that the lifeguards have good visibility will you be able to keep your members safe.

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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