Duty Of Care
With no laws, regulations or British Standard concerning swimming pool water, it is not always obvious how to demonstrate to customers and staff that you pool is fit for purpose. Since 2012 there has been a free online Code of Practice in the authoritative book Swimming Pool Water published by the Pool Water Advisory Group. (PWTAG).
The publication provides pool operators with a structured plan for the technical operation of their pool. Last year PWTAG introduced Poolmark, available only to pools that meet the Code of Practice. Poolmark certification gives public assurance that your pool meets the essential healthy pool operational standards.
With it, bathers can be assured – by you and by the Poolmark plaque – that the pool is approved. You can rely on the authority of the organisations that endorse PWTAG – Public Health England, Health and Safety Executive etc. Staff have to be adequately trained to meet the Code of Practice and achieve Poolmark status. There are several hidden benefits behind the scheme too.
New members will be sure that the pool is safe and comfortable for bathers – and this will be fully authenticated – plus users will have the reputation and authority of PWTAG behind them. If anything does go wrong at the pool, you will be able to demonstrate - in court if necessary – that you were following the best available guidelines. Without this protection, you are vulnerable.
It is incumbent on everyone involved in the provision of holiday packages and accommodation to ensure that pools and spas at their destinations are fit for purpose. The alarming increase in the number of media reports on entrapment accidents, highlights the fear that many pools and spas remain unsafe ticking time bombs for unsuspecting swimmers. The danger is escalated when you realise how poorly management and lifeguards at many holiday resorts and hotels are trained to avoid entrapment risks.
Looking at international media coverage, it appears that most entrapment accidents and deaths have taken place while families are holidaying abroad where perhaps regulations are less rigorously enforced than in the UK. There are hundreds of thousands of pools installed at hotels and holiday resorts across continental Europe that may not conform to the correct safety standards, often because they are very old pools and do not have the prerequisite two main drains at the bottom of the pool.
Pools with a single drain, poorly-fitted or with faulty parts pose grave dangers, as does the lack of understanding of the risk to life if a swimmer gets trapped in a drain. Pool operators must exercise full responsibility and enforce rigorous safety measures to guard against accidents including entrapment. This includes regular testing of the pool structure and the water chemistry through to the provision of experienced lifeguards who are trained to deal with all types of incidents promptly.
Put simply, entrapment is when part of the body becomes trapped in the powerful suction of a pool’s only drain. This is not a risk that a swimmer can see and thus cannot take care to avoid.
Whilst entrapment can occur because of a damaged outlet in a pool or spa, the root cause is the lack of two drains – a known and solvable problem. A single drain can create intense pump suction as the water system is regulated.
Getting too close to a single main drain leaves bathers at risk of being dragged into this vacuum which is almost impossible to break free of without the pool system being turned off, and that can take far too long. Sadly these incidents are continuing to result in people drowning or sustaining terrible physical problems such as disembowelment – and children are seemingly at greatest risk of such incidents.
UK regulatory standards (BSEN 15288 and SPATA) are already in place to ensure that all new pools are equipped with two main drains, as this reduces the demands that circulating water places on a single drain. While operators of holiday accommodation may not wish to close lucrative facilities for adaptation, doing nothing puts people’s lives at risk and is unjustifiable especially given that an anti-entrapment device such as the MSI Vac-Alert eliminates the danger and can be installed in half a day.
Hoteliers and the travel trade have a duty to ensure clients are able to enjoy pools and spas without coming to harm, and preventing entrapment is a significant part of that responsibility. Poolmark looks like being an ideal way of demonstrating that duty of care.
To find out more about Poolmark, visit www.pwtag.org.uk/poolmark