9 Poolside Risks that are Easy to Miss

When pool season is in full swing don’t get so caught up in the action that you pass over these poolside risks that are easy to miss. Here’s what we’ve been catching at facility surveys and poolside audits and quick corrective actions for safer swimming.


Expired Certifications – Your aquatic team is well-trained, and they need to stay that way. A monthly audit of lifeguard, swim lesson instructor and pool operator certifications will help you rest assured that your team is up to local, state and national training standards.

Sneaky Issue – Busy aquatic directors and maintenance managers often leave certification compliance up to the individual. That’s a bad idea. Delegate this task to one responsible person and maintain a digital spreadsheet and a hard-copy binder full of everyone’s certifications. If someone’s cert expires, they’re off the schedule. No exceptions.

Non-Commercial Items – Deck equipment at your aquatic facility takes a beating. It’s outside in direct sunlight, exposed to chlorinated water daily and subject to consistent wear and tear from your patrons every day of the week. Bottom line – you better make sure it’s good stuff. Too often we find non-commercial quality items on commercial pool decks. Make sure your chairs, tables, umbrellas and toys were made to a commercial quality standard by buying from commercial equipment dealers.

Sneaky Issue – Umbrellas on your pool deck are not unlikely to take flight in the wind. Make sure you’re using strong umbrellas and heavy duty commercial bases of at least 50 lbs. Set a policy to drop umbrellas when any wind is in the forecast.

Barrier Compliance– Check your barriers to entry and make sure they’re compliant. These should be audited daily. Look for doors that don’t self-close, gates that don’t self-latch and any defects to fencing. Fix any faults immediately.

Sneaky Issue – Barriers that were compliant early in the season may not be compliant today. Outdoor pools are subject to environmental factors that can quickly turn a gates, latches and locks into squeaky, sticky, slow moving issues. Time for some WD-40.

Accessible Pump Rooms – Your pump room is a dangerous place full of tools, mechanical equipment and chemicals. Keep it off limits at all times. Make sure doors to this area self-close and self-latch. They should always be locked and should be well labeled as areas that are restricted to qualified staff only.

Sneaky Issue – Many pools leave doors to pump rooms unlocked, as many staff members don’t carry keys. Don’t fall victim to this common complacency issue. These doors should always be locked.

Instructional Aides vs. Toys – Kickboards, noodles, hand-paddles and fins are stored on most seasonal pool decks, typically as instructional aides. Risk potential grows when these items are left accessible to your patrons during non-instruction times. Differentiate what equipment is available for open swim, and what is kept out of the pool during non-structured times.

Sneaky Issue – Pool noodles, kickboard and other floating toys make deeper water easily accessible for non-swimmers. Danger exists when children use these toys to get into areas that are over their head. When they lose hold of the toy lifeguards will be tasked with the perilous rescue an active drowning victim.

Poor Parental Supervision – During open swim times parents and guardians serve as the primary supervisor of their children, regardless of whether your pool is staffed with lifeguards. Make sure this is reflected in your rules and enforced by your team.

Sneaky Issue – Parents are subject to complacency poolside when they assume their child is being watched by the lifeguard. Encourage them to be in the pool with their child – this helps them cut distractions (smartphones especially).

Untrained Testers – Your chemical test reporting is not done to appease the health department. It’s your legal representation that you were doing a great job with water balance. If someone says they contracted a RWI (recreational water illness) from your pool these records may be your best documentation proving them wrong. If someone picks up a test kit we had better be able to show they knew how to use it.

Sneaky Issue – Life is busy, and the nature of our business is that lots of people do lots of things on the pool deck. Sometimes that means we ask for untrained team members to learn as they go. For many task, that’s alright but for chemical testing that just doesn’t work. Run an in-service for all team members who need to be testing chemicals sooner rather than later.

Poor Chemical Storage – OSHA’s list of chemical storage hazards is not short. How you store, separate, label, dose, measure and contain your chemicals is just the tip of the iceberg. Every summer we’re called to emergency situations where something went wrong with pool chemicals. Make sure you’re not the next headline.

Sneaky Issue – Pump rooms are packed! They may have been designed to house equipment and chemicals only, but then life happened. Deck equipment, pool toys and old lounge chairs flooded your pump room… at the expense of proper chemical storage. If you’re pump room is a mess, check out our article on chemical safety and consider a visit from one of our pros to help.

Heater Safety – Fire damage will have a huge impact on your operation. Consider the cost of replaced equipment, smoke damage and days of shut-down time. Make sure you’re being smart in your pump room and don’t allow storage of items on or around the heater.

Sneaky Issue – See above… pump rooms are packed! It’s never too late for spring cleaning. Next time you’ve got a rainy day, don’t send the guard staff home early. Keep them on for a few hours of pump room clean up. You’ll be well on your way to a safe and successful summer!

The aforementioned list includes the nine most frequent items we’ve cataloged on our recent Facility Surveys. In this process we work with your team, in your pump room finding teachable moments and opportunities for improvement. Think you could benefit from a visit? Shoot us a quick note on our contact-us page. We’ll provide details on this service and how beneficial it can be for your team. Summer surveys are happening all across the country this summer. Act now to schedule yours.