Regardless of intent, proper pool safety is a must for hotel operators.
The pool is one of the biggest attractions that lures guests to a hotel. A pool might be part of your fitness area, allowing travelers to keep up with their workouts, or it might be a family space, allowing parents and kids a place to splash away, even if rainy days change vacation agendas. Regardless of intent, proper pool safety is a must for hotel operators—not just to protect your establishment from bad experiences and bad reviews, but also to protect you from liability issues. Taking steps to ensure safe pool operation ahead of time frees up resources for serving guests and ensuring their experiences are the kind they’d like to repeat.
Current Pool Safety Standards
NSF International, the public health and safety organization, certifies pools across the country to ensure proper safety standards. The current standards were developed by a committee of manufacturers, public health officials and experts. Read the full list here: NSF/ANSI 50: Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs. These standards offer the best suggestions for the many working parts required for proper pool safety and maintenance, including every form of pool and spa and every component. NSF rates pumps, chemicals, suction fittings, water test devices, and all the other pieces that come together to ensure your pool is safe and fun for your guests.
Since 2008, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act requires new pool safety standards for swimming pools. Pool owners must have drain covers installed that meet the current standard on every drain or gate. Pools with a single drain must have one or more of the following options installed: a safety vacuum release system (SVRS), a suction-limiting vent system, a gravity drainage system, an automatic pump shut-off system or a disabled drain. Pool operators must also ensure multiple drains are at least three feet apart. These requirements were put into place to stop drownings caused by powerful drainage systems that pull victims underwater.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2012 to require public pools to allow safe access and use for persons with disabilities. The law outlines five methods of access that make a pool compliant with the law. Many pool operators opt for an assisted chair lift, as they can be powered by battery or water pressure. The law requires a sloped entry, which can mean a built entryway or a removable ramp. Pools must also have a transfer wall where a grab bar runs on the edge of a pool, allowing guests with wheelchairs to pull themselves in and out of the water. Transfer systems work in a similar manner but more like a ladder or staircase that the guest can use. Accessible pool stairs offer more handholds and contact points to ease into the water. The size of the pool determines how many of these points must be in place, but the good news is that there are tax credits to ease the financial sting of bringing your pool up to compliance.
Pool Safety Tips
The most important rule of swimming pool safety? Never leave a child unattended around a pool, spa, bathtub or any body of water. Making properties child safe is a challenge, but it’s always worth it in the long run. The majority of injuries and deaths at pools and spas involve children under 2 years old. Hopefully, parents will have taught their kids basic pool safety rules before letting them loose in the water, but staff members should have a quick refresher if they catch any kids unsupervised. The US government has several pool safety documents that can be downloaded and printed out for your guests’ convenience or placed in rooms along with the usual paperwork.
The easiest way to combat these safety challenges comes with using proper signage and equipment. For starters, make sure your pool i s enclosed by a gate or fence to keep toddlers and small children from wandering into danger. Outdoor pools often use a fence with a latched gate. Many indoor facilities have migrated to a keycard system activated by guestroom keys. Clearly post pool usage rules, locations of safety equipment, and pool depth. Use non-slip materials on the pool deck, diving board and on any means of entering and exiting the pool. Be sure there’s a first aid kit in the pool area that meets Red Cross standards, as well as a floatation device that can be easily removed and put into the pool when it might be needed.
Proactive staff training can also go a long way to keeping a pool safe. Be sure your maintenance staff is aware of the proper chemical levels needed for the pool water. Pools require maintenance just like any other part of the hotel, so setting them on a preventative maintenance schedule can stop many problems before they begin. Training staff members in CPR and other first aid techniques can put guests at ease and might even save lives if a crisis should occur. Most hotels are unable to afford a full-time lifeguard on staff, but many lifeguards need work on the off-season, so finding an employee with that training can make your pool seem even safer to the guests.
When most guests think of hotels, they think of relaxing by the hotel pool. Owning a pool is a responsibility that requires a lot of attention. Be sure your pool complies with laws at every level of legislature. Use NSF standards when purchasing pool equipment. Be sure your pool operates under current safety standards, including allowing means for guests with disabilities to use the pool. Keep unsupervised kids out and put up obvious signage for adults to ensure they’re aware of the terms and conditions for using the pool. Hire staff members who can handle pool emergencies with medical or lifeguard training. Guests want to have fun at the pool—it’s up to you to keep them safe.
Featured image “hotel PORTO BAY FALÉSIA” courtesy of Flickr user PortoBay Hotels & Resorts licensed under CC by 2.0.
Top image “Hotel Julien Dubuque pool” courtesy of Flickr user Alan Light licensed under CC by 2.0.