Safety experts want tougher standards for pool operators.

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Safety experts want tougher standards for pool operators.

Back to Safety experts want tougher standards for pool operators Safety experts want tougher standards for pool operators

August 26, 2011
Jesse McLean and Diana Zlomislic

Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care said the province may consider introducing a certification program for pool operators.

Safety experts want the province to enforce standardized training for swimming pool operators after a Toronto Star investigation revealed widespread public health violations at hotels, condos and health clubs across the city.
Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care said the province may consider introducing a certification program for pool operators.
“If this is a way to enhance the safety of our pools, then it’s certainly something we could look at,” Deb Matthews said Friday.
“I think Ontario families should be able to use pools without having to worry about any potential health risks.”
One national agency is already lined up to help develop training standards.
“Training will enhance the safety in these pools and reduce infractions,” said Michael Shane, a director at the Lifesaving Society, a registered charity that promotes water safety and regularly advises the government on how to improve regulations.
He said his agency can quickly gather experts to develop a provincial certification program. “We are eager to assist.”
Ontario health regulations require pool and hot tub operators to be trained but it does not spell out to what extent.
Some operators enroll in rigorous two-day courses while others receive brief instructions on how to check chemical levels.
Click here](** for an interactive map of all pools and hot tubs that received infractions in 2009-2010 **
The consequence is a chasm between the competencies of operators at municipal pools in Toronto, where regular training is mandatory, and those running facilities at condos or hotels.
“If they’re not properly maintaining a pool, people can get sick,” said Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, a Colorado-based, non-profit agency that trains operators across North America.
“If you’re riding in a bus, your expectation is the driver knows what they’re doing,” he said.
“Having people trained to a minimum requirement is essential.”
The Star obtained city inspection reports of pools and hot tubs in Toronto outlining more than 10,000 infractions over a two-year period.
The data revealed some properties repeatedly flouted health and safety rules with little penalty or public knowledge, putting unwitting bathers at risk of disease and injury.
In 2009 and 2010, inspectors found 114 cases where staff were not adequately trained to safely run a hot tub or pool.
Even more troubling, city officials cited 23 facilities — condos, fitness clubs and hotels — multiple times for the infraction, suggesting they failed to get the necessary training despite the inspector’s warning.
The lack of certified training is “a weakness in the regulation,” said Mahesh Patel, a manager at Toronto Public Health.
As part of their inspections, health officials can order an operator to be retrained.
But with no standardized course, a retraining order simply means that when the inspector returns, the operator must show he can perform the procedure he was not able to do before.
Dia Condominiums, a luxury building near Yonge St. and Finch Ave., was written up four times in two years for inadequate training.
The superintendent routinely monitors the building’s four-person hot tub, which racked up 75 infractions in 2009 and 2010. But if any problems arise, they depend on pool maintenance crew that visits twice a week.
“We rely on their expertise,” said Dia property manager Ken Chan. “We are not experts.”
A five-minute drive south is One Avondale Lofts.
Inspectors cited the condo for inadequate training to run its hot tub three times in 11 months.
Allan Rosenberg, vice president of Del Property Management, said he couldn’t comment on the building’s infractions in detail without the condo board’s approval.
“They’re dealt with as they occur,” he said, adding that none of 55 infractions received by the condo were “unusual.”
Public health’s Patel said it’s more common to find inadequately trained operators at condos or hotels, where the managers have other priorities competing with the maintenance of the pools.
“We find people are not trained properly. We cannot do the training in that short time we are there,” he said.
“Whenever the (provincial pool and hot tub) regulation comes up for review, that may be one of things that needs to be addressed.”
Alberta enforced government-sanctioned training programs for pool operators five years ago.
Operating a pool facility “has become progressively more complex,” the province notes in its pool standards guide.
“That’s why we mandated operator training,” said Kathleen Range, spokesperson for Alberta Health and Wellness.
Two-day training programs are offered by public and private, government-approved agencies across the province for $150. Operators who score 70 per cent or higher on their final exam are certified.
“It seems kind of obvious,” Lachocki of the U.S. National Swimming Pool Foundation said. “If people don’t know what they’re doing, the likelihood that they’ll have a violation is higher.
“If they’re aware of what the risks are, at least they have a fighting chance to manage those risks.”

I did an inspection on the weekend the next door neighbor had a pool completely open to the public. He was not home so I told my client to mention the dangers of small children.
Do you think I will find a locked gate with warning signs next week?
I will let you know.:mad: