Sports Law • Risk Management

Slippery on Deck

I have vivid memories from my childhood of taking swim lessons in indoor pools in the wintertime and of playing with friends in outdoor pools in the summertime. Although when I was young I was nearly oblivious to the dangers of the pool. While I was having fun playing in the pool, the staff was continuously trying to mitigate risk.

There are many risks associated with running a swimming pool. However, some of these risks may be managed. For instance, visible signage should be posted using clear and simple language describing the rules of the pool. One such rule should include a no-running policy. The no-running policy should be enforced on the pool deck knowing that young kids are tempted to run and jump into the pool. Even if the surface is a concrete deck, it can still get slippery, particularly when used by wet, bare feet. In addition to the no-running policy, the pool deck should be regularly monitored and maintained to minimize slip and falls. Regardless, should an incident occur it should be recorded in a log and reviewed to determine if any additional risk management procedures may reduce future harm.

Another good policy is to require that swimmers shower before entering the pool. In addition to showering, children who are not toilet trained should only be allowed into the pool if they are wearing waterproof diapers. These policies should help reduce the contaminants brought into the pool water by the swimmers because chemicals in the swimming pool can only do so much to create a sanitary place to swim.

Yet another important policy to have is to ensure that an adult swims with any child who has not passed a swim test. To further protect poor swimmers, diving boards, slides and deep ends should be separated by rope with floatation devices. The separation should encourage non-proficient swimmers to use the shallow end where they can more likely touch the bottom of the pool. Furthermore, capable, experienced swimmers should be the only ones permitted to use diving boards, slides and deep ends. Even if a child is an experienced swimmer or accompanied by an adult, all youth should be required to get out of the pool once an hour for a fifteen-minute rest. This break is critical so that a kid does not suddenly become too fatigued to swim to safety.

As with any equipment, pool equipment should be routinely inspected and maintained. Staff should know how to conduct water quality testing and to adhere to the proper procedures to maintain safe chemical levels in the water. Any pool should be fenced in or in an enclosed space that can be secured when not in use. Inspection and maintenance should be logged and reviewed for compliance.

Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity that is fraught with risk. However, with proper management, risk exposure can be reduced. While most swimming pools may already utilize the above recommendations, it is a good reminder of the importance of risk management in swimming pools.