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Eliminating Barriers at Today's Aquatic Facilities

Public pools and spas bring people of all ages and abilities together and, therefore, are designed to be an inclusive space. Swimming, exercise, therapy, relaxation, and water play are all activities that can take place in a pool and/or spa and, thanks to innovative design features and access equipment, people of all abilities are able to participate in these activities in the same body of water.

 

To make an aquatic facility more accessible, it starts during the design phase. In fact, many provinces and states have made significant changes to building codes when it comes to addressing ease of access to public facilities. For instance, amendments to building codes in Ontario require barrier-free access to, and around, all public pools and some spas. That said, there are several ways to design/build or renovate an aquatic facility to make it more accessible.

 

RAMPS

Ramps are one of the most common and effective ways to make a pool more accessible. Pool ramps provide individuals in wheelchairs a safe way to enter/exit the pool while remaining seated. They also provide a gradual entry point equipped with railing support for patrons who may have other mobility constraints. Bathers of all ages and abilities can use these ramps as a method of ingress/egress from the pool.

 

BEACH ENTRY

Beach entry, also known as zero entry, is an increasingly popular pool design, especially when it comes to accessibility and overall esthetics. A beach entry provides a gradual slope from the deck into the pool, eliminating the need for steps and/or ladders. The design is similar to a ramp, but spans the entire width of the pool.

 

This design accommodates a wide range of patrons of all ages and abilities. Beach entries are typically integrated into leisure/lap pool combinations and provide a popular access point for the entire family.

 

TRANSFER WALLS

This pool design comprises a wall or curb along an accessible route to enable a bather to leave a mobility device and transfer onto the wall and then in the pool or spa. Transfer walls must have at least one grab bar; however in most cases there are two. This type of accessibility feature is common in spas.

 

BALLET RAILS

Ballet railings are installed along the walls of a pool and, in some cases, in the interior, to provide a hand grip for bathers to hold onto - similar to the railings used by ballet dancers. These railings provide additional support and security for bathers with mobility constraints; however, they are also commonly used for fitness and aerobics. In certain applications, ballet rails can be removed for storage when not in use.

 

MOVABLE FLOORS

Movable floors give aquatic facilities the ultimate versatility when it comes to accessibility. In fact, a number of public pools in Europe are equipped with these systems, while in North America movable floors are gaining similar traction and are now being incorporated into many aquatic facility designs.

 

Movable floors can be installed in new construction or retrofitted into existing facilities giving them the ability to offer a range of programming that could not be provided to patrons in the past. While not a lifting device, pools equipped with a movable floor can be set to multiple depths to accommodate the preferences and/or abilities of different patrons. Further, moving floors can also be built with a sloping functionality. This allows the movable floor to become a beach entry or offer a gradual depth change within the pool.

 

PLATFORM LIFTS

Platform lifts provide the same benefits and ease of entry as a ramp, but in a fraction of the space. These devices, which are typically a small movable floor, allow a patron to remain in their wheelchair or mobility device when entering the pool.

 

Capable of stopping at one or more depths within the pool, platform lifts have a greater weight capacity than an anchored or portable lift and are powered by either battery or water.

 

Similar to a ramp or beach entry, these are the only lifts that give the platform autonomy to enter the pool without assistance. These lifts are designed and built as part of the pool and are typically incorporated in the initial plans. Platform lifts are innovative in design and are increasing in popularity compared to older access equipment typically found in most aquatic facilities.

 

SPLASH PADS

Many people are familiar with splash pads, as they are often found at most public playgrounds and, in some cases, are also part of many aquatic facility designs. These areas have grown in popularity because of their zero-depth water play design. Not only are they safe, but they are universally accessible. Many aquatic facilities will incorporate either an indoor or outdoor splash pad or water play area into the plans.

 

Along with the barrier-free design of most splash pads, water play manufacturers are also creating a range of interactive features that are available in various sizes to accommodate patrons of all abilities.

 

Further, all ground space is flush with the concrete, which allows mobility devices to move over and around a splash pad without any difficulty.

 

ACCESS LIFTS

Access lifts provide an additional means of entry/exit with the ability to transfer a patron from the pool deck directly into the water without using a ramp or stairs. These lifts do not have to be incorporated into the design or construction of the pool, as they can be easily installed after the pool has been built.

 

There are many different manufacturers and models available, which makes it possible to use these types of pool lifts in most aquatic facilities whether new or existing.

 

Anchored Lifts

Anchored access lifts are installed into supports mounted around the pool perimeter. These lifts can be easily removed and stored if they are not being used. Most anchored pool access lifts are battery-powered and charged by simply plugging the unit into the wall.

 

Portable Lifts

Portable access lifts are similar to anchored lifts; however, they are on wheels and can be used anywhere around the pool as they are not limited by anchor locations in the pool deck. Although portable lifts can be used anywhere, they typically have a lower weight capacity.

 

Ceiling Lifts

These lifts are installed in the ceiling of an aquatic facility and are typically used when deck space is limited. They also have a larger lifting capacity than a portable or anchored lift. Powered by a battery-operated motor, a ceiling lift can transport patrons-once they are suspended-lateralling along a track system. They are also well-suited for intensive use, e.g. providing access to the pool for a large number of patrons that use wheelchairs. Further, ceiling lifts have a larger lifting capacity than a standard portable or anchored deck lift and are great for pools that have narrow decks which do not permit the installation of an access system.

 

 

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Knowledge is Power: The Benefits of Being a Certified Pool Operator

During the last several years, the aquatic industry has experienced a major growth. Innovative and continuously evolving technology has not only changed many of the physical attributes of aquatic centres today, but has also improved the overall swimming environment. With advanced operating techniques, tools, and maintenance practices, swimming pools have become safer, and more enjoyable to swimmers everywhere. However, without proper operation your patron’s safety and health as well as the longevity of your facility could be sacrificed. The training and education of your pools operators is crucial to the success of your facility.

 

LET'S BREAK IT DOWN

The Certified Pool Operators® (CPO®) course is an educational course provided by the National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®) that teaches students the fundamentals of pool and spa operation. After completing the course, participants will understand how to reduce risks, improve safety, and decrease liability for employers, facilities and patrons. CPO® certification courses are designed to provide individuals with the basic knowledge, techniques, and skills needed for pool and spa operation. The CPO® certification has provided training in the pool and spa industry since 1972, resulting in more than 350,000 certifications in 94 countries.

 

Who Should Be Certified?

  • Pool & Spa Operators
  • Service Technicians
  • Facility Maintenance Staff
  • Environmental Health Officials
  • Facility Managers & Owners
  • Facility Supervisors
  • Head Lifeguards

The Certified Pool Operator program requires participation in either a two-day class taught by a certified instructor OR the blended format which combines the online, “Pool Operator Primer™”, and one day of the in-class instruction, “Pool Operator Fusion™”, along with a final examination.

 

This certification program includes:

  • Pool & Spa Chemistry
  • Water Testing
  • Water Treatment
  • Filtration
  • Facility Safety
  • Record Keeping
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Chemical Feed & Control
  • Local and State Code Regulations
  • To complete the CPO® program successfully, participants are required to write an open book final exam and obtain a 75% or higher. Once completed, the certification is valid for five years and can be recertified with only a one day in-class review and exam by a certified instructor.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

  • This internationally accepted certification is a proven educational tool covering the necessary topics for pool & spa operators.
  • The comprehensive handbook is the perfect tool for participants attending the class, as well as an excellent source of reference for those who have completed the course.
  • All courses are taught by an NSPF certified instructor. This maintains the accuracy and consistency of the material.
  • The course provides participants with a better understanding of the operator’s role in pool and spa care, management, and risk reduction.
  • The CPO® course provides operators with a better understanding of the importance of water chemistry, which will result in a safer and more comfortable swimming environment, as well as improving the life of the facility.
  • The materials and topics covered in this course provide you with the essential knowledge to perform preventative maintenance and understand its impact on water purification and mechanical equipment. 
  • The growth of the aquatic industry has created a demand for improved safety, and a higher level of education for the management of an aquatic facility. Although this course is internationally recognized, there are still those who have yet to become certified. It is imperative as an industry, that we encourage those who have not yet received certification, as well as those who have, to stay current and up-to-date on proper operation and maintenance of a safe swimming environment.

 

As the aquatic industry progresses, our aquatic professionals must also progress and improve. As they say…Knowledge Is Power!

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The Benefits of a Splash Pad

When a hot summer day hits, is there anything more fun and refreshing than playing in the water? Throughout communities across North America, splash pads are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for traditional outdoor aquatic centres like swimming pools and wading pools. They are typically located at municipal parks, water parks, and resorts, but they can be found almost anywhere. The growing demand for splash pads is not surprising, as there are several significant benefits associated including cost savings, accessibility, flexibility and more!

 

NO LIFEGUARDS REQUIRED

A major advantage of splash pads is that lifeguards are not required. This is a big savings and allows smaller communities to install a splash pad in place of a pool to help cut back on running costs.

 

ATTRACT THE COMMUNITY

One of the largest advantages of a splash pad is their visual appearance. Even a limited number of water features can help draw people from the community to parks and pools alike. With endless options for water features and interactive toys splash pads can be a simple attraction for anything from a community pool to a campground or park. Splash pads can also be an effective way to attract members of the community to public areas such as public parks or community centers.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

With the way splash pads are designed there is no additional accommodations or equipment required for accessibility. With a pool, costly lifts or large ramps are required to meet accessibility standards, though with splash pads being on grade there are no issues getting onto the pad. Along with access to the pads, because users are not submerged it is much easier for someone in a wheelchair to enjoy the splash pad.

 

COMMUNITY

In most cases, communities do not charge admission for splash pads, as this is a good way to give back to the people of the community. A splash pad is an easy way to provide somewhere to cool off without the costs of building a pool. Splash pads are also highly appealing to small children and toddlers who are too small to touch the bottom of a pool.

 

FLEXIBILITY

Splash pads can be made in any shape or size desirable, and this allows for endless flexibility for locations where splash pads can be built. Splash pads can be added to existing developed areas where there would be no room for a pool. Many splash pads do not recirculate which means the mechanical equipment required can typically fit into a small cabinet.  This allows for a splash pad to be built basically anywhere as no underground tanks or mechanical rooms are required.

 

LOW MAINTENANCE

Since the majority of splash pads do not recirculate the water used in the system, there is minimal maintenance needed for the pad. In this situation, chemicals are not used for the water, and an operator on staff is not required as the system only needs to be checked periodically. 

 

SAFETY

Since the primary target of splash pads are children, safety is obviously a big concern and this is where a splash pad really shows advantage over a wading pool. Splash pads do not have any standing water, which eliminates any worry for those who are too small to swim, allowing them to enjoy a splash pad all on their own.

 

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Meeting & Surpassing Code Requirements

The Ontario and other provincial Building Codes have minimum standards that have been established to ensure that new public pools are constructed to be safe and functional. Following construction, Health Departments are responsible for monitoring and regulating the operation of the pool. The entire content of the code is important, but some items really stand out. For example, strict adherence to the velocity of water moving through suction fittings like the main drains is really important. The velocity of water through main drains is dictated as not to exceed 1.5 fps (feet per second). This low velocity helps decrease the possibility that people might become entrapped or entangled by the main drain fitting.

 

Another really important factor is the turnover rate of the pool. For Class ‘A’ pools (a pool to which the general public is admitted), the entire volume of the pool has to be filtered and chemically treated every four hours. This ‘turnover rate’ provides some assurance that the pool water will be clean and safe for bathers to use. The Building and Health Codes are very important and have elements that work to ensure pools work really well and up to standards, most of the time. As with most rules, there are some exceptions that should be considered. An important question to consider is: When is it a good idea to do more than what the code calls for?

 

CLASS A & CLASS B POOLS

In Ontario for example, a Class ‘B’ pool (a pool operated on the premises of an apartment building with five or more units, a pool operated as a facility to serve a community of more than five single-family private residences, a pool operated on the premises of a hotel, a pool operated on the premises of a campground, a pool operated in conjunction with, a club or a condominium, a pool operated in conjunction with a day nursery, a day camp or an establishment for the care or treatment of persons who are ill, infirm or aged) is required to be designed in such a way that the circulation system exchanges the entire volume of the pools water once every six hours, or four times per day. Most of the time, this is totally acceptable, but there are times when it is not sufficient. At some resorts for example, the pools are shallow and the volume of water is small. This coupled with a very high usage, warmer water and bathers who may not shower as well as they should (especially children) can create a condition that makes the water quality very difficult to manage. We often oversize the circulation systems with larger than required pumps and filters in this instance and add secondary sanitation systems like UV to help ensure superior water quality.

 

The same is true of a Class ‘A’ pool. These pools are required to be designed to exchange the water in the pools every four hours or six times per day which seems like a lot, but again there are some exceptions. If the pool is a therapeutic pool with a higher percentage of elderly users, or users with either a physical or mental disability, there may be a higher risk of contamination by fouling, making it prudent to exchange the water more often and install UV systems. For pools like this we often design the mechanical system to exchange the water every two hours, or 12 times per day, or more.

 

FILTRATION RATE

Another important consideration is the filtration rate of the pool filter system. In all cases this is calculated by dividing the total flow of the circulation pump by the total surface area of the pool and is expressed as GPM/FT2 of filter area. For sand filters, most manufacturers call for a filtration rate of no more than 15 GPM/ FT2. For a pool that has a flow rate of 450 GPM, the total sand area should be no less than 450 GPM/ 15 GPM/FT2 = 30 FT2. This square footage can be achieved by either using one or two larger horizontal or vertical filters, or a ‘battery’ of smaller filters. Is a filtration rate of 15 GPM/ ft2 always enough? For a lesser-used pool with a lower-risk user, and a low bather load, the answer is probably yes, but in instances where there is a high bather load, it may make sense to lower the velocity of water through the filter to improve filtration even more. Sometimes it makes sense to oversize the filter so that the filtration rate is more like 12 GPM/ft2. The same thing can be done with other filter media like cartridge filters or DE (diatomaceous earth) filters. 

 

UV SANITATION SYSTEMS

UV is a secondary sanitizer that effectively renders most bacteria unproductive (and therefore safe) as water passes through the device. UV units are not required by code for pools (UV is required for splash pads) or spas, but may be a really good idea to install anyway. Some bacteria are resistant to chlorine or bromine and can become the source of an infectious condition that can make swimmers sick. This can result in a severe and widespread illness outbreak that could have long term effects or even cause the death of a vulnerable individual. There could also be legal implications for the owner/operator of the pool. Even though the codes do not require it, putting UV systems on a high bather load or high risk pool is a smart and proactive change to make.

 

Finally, the codes are an effective way to improve the overall safety of pools across the community. As with all rules and regulations, not every scenario can be addressed. It is best to look at the particular conditions surrounding your pool and design it appropriately. Since there is no specific  ‘rule book’ to help you decide when code requirements should be exceeded, it is best to consult an aquatic consultant or pool builder who has a long record of experience with a variety of public and private pools. These experienced companies will help you design, build or upgrade a pool that is safe and fun for your clientele.

 

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Dive Stand Manitenance

Dive Stands are a great addition to any facility, but of course have inherent dangers and cost a lot of money to replace. Let’s talk about how you can make your dive stand and spring board as safe as possible, and how to protect your investment!

 

DON'T SLIP UP

The lifeguard staff should check the surface of the springboard to be sufficiently “non-skid” at the beginning of every shift. This should be done with the board wet, to simulate what it is like when in use. If the board is found to be slippery, it should be taken out of service until the issue is resolved. Nobody want to see anyone hurt or to suffer any legal consequences. The owners, supervisors and lifeguard staff could all potentially share a liability if the board were subsequently shown to be unfit for use.

 

What is in the Making of a Slip?

There are a few reasons that boards can become slippery:

  • Dirt and body oil from swimmers and sunbathers can collect on the surface of the board, making it slippery just because of the nature of the material (oils) or by filling in the ‘voids’ of the textured surface so that it effectively becomes smoother and therefore more slippery.
  • Excessive alkalinity or minerals in the water can cause scaling that again renders the textured board smoother, or damages the textured surface.
  • Wearing, releasing or damage of the textured surface.

How do I Prevent the Board from Becoming Slippery?

  • Hose the board down with fresh water (not pool water) every day. This will help keep the textured surface free of contamination. Never use a high pressure washer for this; you will shorten the life of the texture by blasting away the aggregate.
  • Once a month, give the board a good scrubbing wash with a detergent and hot water. This will remove oils and keep the texture in good shape. Always use a soft bristle brush - never stiff.
  • If there is a hardness buildup, a muriatic acid solution can be used to dissolve the minerals. Remember to exercise all appropriate safety procedures when using muriatic acid!

The Textured Surface is Gone…Now What?

Take the board out of service. It just isn’t worth the risk of continuing to use it. Most commercial manufacturers offer refinishing of commercial boards. Contact your commercial aquatics provider, and they will help arrange shipping and refinishing of your board so it is like new, and back in tr-action!

 

The manufacturers use a special epoxy to bond the slip resistant material to the board, and the material itself is designed to reduce surface tension so that water doesn’t stand tall on the board. Don’t try to resurface the board yourself. It won’t be as good as the factory does it, and you accept the liability if there is an accident after you put it back into service.

 

OK…What Else for the Board?

The rubber channels on the underside of the board must be inspected monthly for signs of wear. If they are getting close to being worn out, they should be replaced BEFORE the metal ridges on the underside of the board come into contact with the fulcrum. If left unchecked, the fulcrum AND the board will be damaged!

 

That’s Great for the Board, but What About the Stand?

  • The best and easiest thing to do is to rinse the entire stand with clean water at the beginning and end of every day. This is especially important for indoor pools. When the stand cools off at night, warm humid air will condense on the stand and handrails, leaving a chlorine residue on the equipment and cause it to degrade prematurely.
  • Keep the fulcrum components clean, especially the tracks.
  • Keep the roller clamp lock nuts, and anti-rattle lock nuts, snug and adjusted for a "no-rattle" clearance.
  • The two grease fittings of the roller block should be lubricated every 2 weeks. Use "Mystic JT-6" grease and grease gun.
  • The hinges that hold the board to the stand need 2 drops of oil every 2 weeks. Use lightweight oil as for door hinges.
  • The carriage bolts that attach the diving board to the hinges should be checked for tightness periodically.  The carriage bolt nuts need to be maintained at 110 lbs of torque (You’ll need a small torque wrench to do it properly).
  • Check all handrail and assembly bolts as part of a quarterly preventative maintenance program to keep everything up to snuff.
  • The stainless steel components are 304 stainless, which is a good quality material for swimming pool natatoriums, but like all stainless steel is not ‘rust-proof’. If rust does appear:
  • Clean it immediately with stainless steel cleaner and a cloth.
  • Rinse with lots of fresh water (never pool water).
  • Using an anodizing product or even wax as a barrier will help prevent future rust.
  • Air quality is critical to the prevention of rust on metal components. Good air handling equipment or the addition of a UV system to the pool go a long way toward improving air quality by reducing airborne chloramines.

 

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Role & Importance of COR™

Over the years, workplace fatality and injury statistics have demanded safer workplaces for its workers, and the construction industry is no exception. Statistics from the Workers Compensation Boards of Canada consistently places Construction in the top 5 of the most dangerous industries in Canada.

 

The silver lining is that more and more construction companies are committed to their workers safety and are pursuing the direction that health and safety will not be optional or extra, but rather integral to the company’s operations.

 

The aspiration for safer workplaces combined with the need for safety programming has been identified in the standards set out by COR™. Beginning in Alberta, COR™ has become a nationally-recognized measure of superior safety performance. Currently there are 168 companies across Ontario who have achieved this certification and almost 1,000 others who are in the process.

 

By participating in the COR™  program and being awarded certification, companies can demonstrate that their health and safety program has been developed, implemented, and evaluated on an annual basis through comprehensive internal and external audits. Intrinsic to the audit process are site visits and interviews with workers. The safety program must be a living, breathing entity within the company where both management and workers have a role in developing programming.

 

Each one of the 19 Ontario COR™ elements (see below) aims to ensure policies and procedures are in place to manage safety by planning work to minimize personal injury, establishing systems for early detection and COR™ rection of unsafe practices and conditions, and ensuring that they are maintained on an ongoing basis.

  1. Health & Safety Policy
  2. Hazard Assessments
  3. Safe Work Practices
  4. Safe Work Procedures
  5. Company Rules
  6. PPE
  7. Preventative Maintenance
  8. Training & Communication
  9. Workplace Inspections
  10. Investigating & Reporting
  11. Emergency Preparedness
  12. Statistics & ReCOR™ds
  13. Legislation
  14. Occupational Health
  15. First Aid
  16. JOHS Rep or Committee
  17. Workplace Violence
  18. Return to Work
  19. Management Review

SCOR™ing is also very strict, where any item set out in the legislation requires a sCOR™ e of 100% or the company would receive an automatic fail. A minimum of 65% is needed on each individual element, in addition to an overall average of at least 80% to pass to the audit.

 

While many aspects of the COR™ program requires companies to go above and beyond, many of the elements are based on requirements already set forth by Provincial safety standards.  Most companies should already have an Occupational Health & Safety Policy Statement as well as policies and programs regarding workplace violence and harassment, emergency procedures and return to work, that should be reviewed annually. There are also pre-existing obligations regarding training, workplace inspections, investigating and reporting incidents, first aid and worker representation in either the form of a joint occupational health and safety committee or safety representative.

 

The second element, Hazard Assessments, is often the most challenging as companies have to identify all of the potential hazards that exist within the company’s operations, and then jointly develop and implement ways to reduce the risk these hazards play. Effective implementation of this element lends itself nicely to the following two elements, Safe Work Practices and Safe Work Procedures, and is fundamentally intrinsic to all of the elements as it identifies how all of the requirements will fit each individual company, based on the work and structure of the organization.  

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Obtaining COR™ certification can also play a role in the company’s bottom line. Because buyer’s of construction have adopted it as a measure of safety performance, it provides a competitive advantage over other construction companies that do not. The effects of just one incident on a site could be very bad news financially, socially and economically. Knowing that a company is willing to go through the process  to meet the industries established standards in safety can be the difference of getting jobs, or not.

 

COR™ certification can also open the doors to bid on more jobs. In today’s industry some of the top construction companies or certain sectors will not even allow a company to bid on a project if they are not COR™ certified.

 

COR™ certification can be an asset if you let it. It's a good way to establish your company in the industry that proves you care about safety in all aspects of your business. At the end of the day this safety standard is place to protect the company’s most valuable assets, all of its workers.

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Bonding & Grounding: The Invisible Super Duo

Comparing James Bond to Pool Bonding may be farfetched, and when thinking about pools, these words would be near the bottom of the list of safety features people may think of. But, like a secret double agent, Pool Bonding acts like an invisible body guard, keeping unsuspecting swimmers safe from the hidden, evil Electrical Shock! And like any good super hero, a trusty side kick is needed, and that’s where “Grounding” comes in. Together, Bonding and Grounding form an invincible super duo, and act as one of the most important aspects to a safe swimming environment when designing and constructing a pool system, secretly keeping the people of the pool safe from the insidious dangers of Electrical Shock.

 

As mentioned, every Super Hero needs a side kick, and when guarding from harmful electrical currents, this case is no different. “Bonding” and Grounding” each have their own jobs, and each are needed to keep the pool area safe.

 

BONDING. POOL BONDING.

Bonding’s super power is an important one. It  joins all electrical pool components and metal components within five feet of the pool together to a thick copper wire, whether it's a mechanical item such as a recirculation pump, simple deck items such as a grab rail or stanchion post, or even unseen items like reinforcing rod encased within the pools concrete walls, forming a safety loop. This safety loop ensures all items have the same voltage, eliminating the possibility of voltages being transferred from the pool to a swimmer, instead containing them within the safety loop, and directing them back to a panel. If needed, a breaker on the panel will trip, dissipating the harmful current within the loop. 

 

GROUNDING, THE TRUSTY SIDEKICK

Grounding, the trusty, yet just as important sidekick, is also silently keeping the patrons of the pool safe, day after day. Grounding power acts in conjunction with Bonding, using the safety loop created by the bonding process, and adds a connection to the ground. This ground connection ensures that any harmful current within the loop is directed away from the swimmers and into the ground, where it dissipates and disappears harmlessly. 

 

A POWERFUL SUPER DUO

Bonding and Grounding, when properly implemented  into the design and construction of a pools system, will continue to act in conjunction with one another, forming one of the most powerful safety duo’s within the pools natatorium, keeping the evil Electrical Shock at bay. Next time you're in a pool, enjoying your swim, listen closely. If you hear a faint tune, it may just be the theme song to the undefeatable super duo of Bonding and Grounding, quietly and courageously continuing the never ending fight with Electrical Shock, keeping the people of the pool safe for years to come!

 

* This is a guest blog post written by Lee Battams, President of Aqua Plans Aquatic Consultants Inc. The knowledge and experience Lee displays on routine site visits have ensured his clients, including Acapulco Pools, remain confident in his abilities in aquatic design.

 

 

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2 Resolutions that will Improve Your Aquatic Facility

January is the month of resolutions. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, be more financially responsible, and visit with friends and family more often (among others). But what about our aquatic facilities? Improving safety and becoming more environmentally friendly are two resolutions that your facility can make this and every year. The following are ways that your facility can do both:

 

PLAY IT SAFE

Safety should always be the highest priority at any facility. Improvements can always be made to increase the safety of your pool staff and patrons.

 

  • Stay up to date on new changes in codes and policies.
  • Ensure your staff is equipped and trained on the proper regulations and requirements.
  • Train your staff (pool managers, lifeguards, operators etc.) in the basics of commercial pool operating and general swimming pool knowledge. This includes chemical testing, accident prevention and the emergency protocols used at your facility.
  • Ensure all of your staff remains current and up-to-date in all required training (CPR, first aid, CPO etc.)
  • Inspect all of your safety equipment and keep an up-to-date inventory throughout the year. Safety and pool equipment can age, rust, and become damaged over time. It’s important to be aware of any equipment that needs to be replaced before an accident occurs. Equipment can include first aid kits, spine boards, life rings, safety rope, fire extinguishers, warning signs, deck equipment.
  • Perform an annual slide inspection. As water slides age they can rust, or become damaged. It is necessary to have a licensed water slide technician inspect the slide to protect and ensure the safety of the users.
  • When changes are made at your aquatic facility, it is important to update your staff. This includes pool managers, operators, lifeguards, aquatic instructors and anyone else who works in the aquatic centre.

KEEP IT GREEN

Today, everyone seems to be going green in some way. The importance in becoming environmentally friendly has shifted the way we live our lives, and the way we conduct business each day. Not only does going green provide environmental benefits, but green efforts can also lower your operating costs.

  • Make the switch to environmentally friendly products and replace old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment. This solution will not only improve your facilities impact on the environment, but will also benefit your budget.
  • Installing a Variable Frequency Drive (I-Pool VFD) can save you $7,000 - $10,000 a year.
  • Installing an Ultraviolet System decreases chemical usage by 20%.
  • Reduce chemical use at your facility. Water that is maintained properly and consistently can lessen pool water issues and chemical treatments.
  • Use an environmentally friendly liquid “pool cover” to decrease chemical usage and save on operating costs by reducing evaporation and heat loss.
  • Repair any existing leaks and service balance tanks to ensure they are operating properly.

 

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Remembering Virginia Graeme Baker

Most pool owners and operators have heard the term VGB compliant as it relates to main drains in swimming pools, and may have heard of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act that was brought into legislation in the United States.

 

As a member of her community swim and diving team, Virginia Graeme Baker was a strong swimmer who could swim unassisted at only 3 years old. Despite this, Virginia (called Graeme by her family) died in a spa (hot tub) after becoming trapped on the single main drain fitting of the spa, even with the frantic efforts of her mother, Nancy Baker to release her from the drain. Eventually, two men were able to release Graeme from the drain, but exerted so much force that the main drain fitting was actually broken in the process. At the very young age of 7 years, Virginia Graeme Baker died from drowning as a result of becoming entrapped on the main drain fitting of the spa.

 

MAIN DRAINS & THE RISKS

The danger of a single main drain in a pool or spa cannot be overstated; when a single main drain is covered and is the sole source of suction for a pump, a tremendous hold-down force is exerted on the person covering the main drain fitting. For a typical residential pool or spa with an 8” round drain, the hold-down force can be in the order of 739 pounds! Even the strongest person would be unable to overcome this kind of force. The larger the surface area of the drain the greater the force, even if the same pump is used. For a 9”x9” main drain, the force will be about 1191 pounds, and for a 12” x 12” main drain the force will be a whopping 2117 pounds! This is approximately the same weight as a skidof bricks! But becoming entrapped by the suction is only one of the dangers of an improper drain installation. People can also become eviscerated if they sit on an improper drain, or become entangled (hair and jewelry) if the velocity of water through the drain is too high, or the drain openings are improperly designed.

 

PREVENTION

Following Graeme’s death, Nancy Baker worked tirelessly as an advocate for pool safety and through the political clout of her father-in-law, former Secretary of State,  James Baker III, and in association with Safe Kids Worldwide, lobbies to congress to bring into law the mandatory use of anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices and methods.

 

Use VGB Compliant Main Drain Covers

Perhaps the most important change was the nature of the drain cover itself. Main drain covers are now required to be VGB compliant, meaning that they have a shape and openings that have been designed to dramatically decrease the likelihood of a person becoming entrapped. The drains are also sized for different flow rates so that the velocity of water moving through the surface of the grate does not exceed 1.5 feet per second. This low velocity decreases the likelihood that things like hair will be drawn into the grate creating an entanglement problem.

 

Use Multiple Main Drains

Another important safety measure in pools and spas is to never have a single main drain. In Canada,  it is law that every public pool and spa have at least two main drains, and that these be spaced apart from each other by at least four feet (1.2m). If one drain fitting is blocked, the water has another path to go though (the other drain fitting) so that an ‘absolute’ vacuum cannot be achieved.

 

Use a Safety Vacuum Release System

Finally, another measure to improve main drain safety is the use of Safety Vacuum Release Systems (SVRS). These devices are installed on the suction side of the pump(s) and are designed to eliminate the suction force of the pump. There are generally two types (mechanical and electrical) which are designed to sense excessive suction and act to relieve this suction. Electrical units work by shutting of the pump, and mechanical systems work by allowing air to enter the pump so that it loses suction.

 

Swimming pools and spas provide a tremendous amount of fun, leisure, exercise and therapeutic benefits to families, the public and patients. But we have to always remember that pools are really machines designed for our aquatic needs, and like all machines, pools have inherent dangers that have to be managed. For decades, we drove cars without the benefit of seatbelts, airbags and so many other safety features. At one time, we didn’t even have windshield wipers! Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Baker after her loss of Graeme, properly designed pools and spas are now safer than they have ever been.

 

Click here for more information on Virginia Graeme Baker, what you can do to prevent entrapment and other tragedies or to read the Pool and Spa Safety Act.

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What is Ultraviolet (UV) & How it is Applied to Swimming Pools?

The strong smell of chlorine within an aquatic facility is not a sign that the pool or spa is clean. It's actually a signal that there is something wrong. Luckily, there is an application that can be added to your swimming pool recirculation system to help correct this issue, and create a safer and more enjoyable swimming experience - An Ultraviolet (UV) system.

 

From a hydrotherapy spa to the largest Olympic-sized competition pool, UV sanitation systems are quickly becoming (or have already become, in some municipalities) the most popular method of additional water treatment in the aquatic industry. UV not only destroys chloramines, the unpleasant by-products of chlorination, but it is also a highly effective disinfectant (although the need for chlorine is reduced with the use of a UV system, it is still needed to ensure proper disinfection).

 

Chloramines are formed when free chlorine reacts with sweat, urine, and other contaminants in pool water. Trichloramines, in particular, are powerful irritants which are responsible for eye and respiratory complaints and the unpleasant ‘chlorine smell’ commonly associated with indoor pools. Chloramines are also corrosive to the surrounding area, and in time can lead to damage to pool accessories, buildings and structures, such as railings, ladders, and ventilation ducts. Any water treatment system that reduces these unwanted conditions is therefore welcome.

 

UV harnesses the power of ultraviolet light to eliminate microorganisms, lower chemical usage, and eliminate toxic by-products.

 

WHAT IS UV?

UV is a highly efficient, natural disinfectant that nutralizes virtually all known microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and molds and their spores, by permanently destroying their DNA.

 

Ultraviolet light is a naturally occurring component of sunlight. It falls in the region between visible light and X-ray in the electromagnetic spectrum. The mechanism of UV disinfection is strong sunlight that disinfects water by permanently de-activating bacteria, spores, moulds and viruses.

 

These systems reproduce UV radiation inside light chambers via powerful lamps, which emit germicidal UV-C light that is used to disinfect pool and spa water.

 

UV-C causes permanent damage to a number of microorganisms almost instantly as the water circulates through the light chamber. By disrupting the microorganism’s DNA, protozoans, viruses and bacteria are unable to replicate and remain inert. This light, however, works only on water that flows through the chamber.

 

HOW IS UV APPLIED TO SWIMMING POOLS?

Ultraviolet is a recommended application that can be added to any swimming pool. However, it should only be used as a secondary pool water disinfectant. A primary disinfectant,  such as chlorine or bromine,  still needs to be used at all times. Chlorine/bromine have a very important property which UV lacks – the ability to provide a residual level of disinfectant in the pool water contained within the tank itself. This means chlorine/bromine can remain in the pool water actively attacking pathogens at the moment they are introduced, whereas a UV system can only disinfect the water that passes through the UV chamber within the pools recirculation system. Once the water has left the chamber, it is vulnerable to be re-infected by swimmers.

 

UV systems are particularly suited to both chloramine destruction and disinfection. The resulting effect is a cleaner, healthier, and more pleasant atmosphere both in and around the pool. The potential dangers caused by Trichloramines are significantly reduced, and the danger of infection by harmful microorganisms is also eliminated.

 

There are a variety of considerations to be taken into account when choosing an Ultra Violet system and different lamps are used in different applications. The nature of the decision can be quite detailed, making it important to find the right swimming pool professional who can assist in finding the right application for you and your aquatic facility.

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