Back to Basics – Easy Pool Operations for New Aquatic Professionals

New to the job? You’re not alone. With a major shift in the job market many new professionals have hit pool decks and pump rooms around the country. If you need a crash course on basic pool operations, you’ve come to the right place. 

Mechanical – Your swimming pool isn’t too complex. A handful of systems make sure you water is circulating, filtered, chemically balanced and heated. Here’s how that all works. 

  • Circulation – Pumps and motors circulate your water through your pool. Starting poolside, water is drawn back to the pump room from skimmers or gutters at the surface of your pool, and main drains at the bottom. Water heads back to the pump room and is pushed and pulled through the rest of your mechanical components by your pump and motor. Water comes back together in the pump room on a main return line and is separated into several return inlets poolside. 
  • Filtration – While in the pump room, your water will pass through a filter, removing insoluble pieces of matter. Clean water then heads back to the pool. Your filter may utilize sand, paper cartridges or diatomaceous earth to clean the water – these are the screens the water passes through. These systems require regular cleaning. Consult the manual for this simple process. 
  • Chemical Balance – Commercial pool operators use automated systems to dose chemicals to the pool. Generally, these systems will add chlorine or bromine to sanitize the water, and an acid or a base to balance the water’s pH. Automatic chemical delivery systems can be simple – they may be controlled with a dial or a timer. Other automated systems are relatively complex – computers evaluate a test stream of water and determine to dose more or less chemicals on their own. Automated systems are helpful, but they are to be used under the control and supervision of a trained professional. Be sure to read the manual associated with your controller and carefully monitor its performance several times each day. 
  • Heating – Most commercial pools will heat their water before returning it to the pool. Several heater types are used commercially, with gas and electric heaters being the most common choice. Operators establish a set-point on the heater, a desired temperature for the pool. When the water is colder than the set point, the heater turns on and warms passing water until the set point is once again achieved. Heaters require regular maintenance. Consult the heaters manufacturer and schedule regular preventative maintenance with a factory trained technician to ensure safe and enduring operations.

Daily Functions – Operators are required to complete a series of tasks throughout their day to ensure the pool is well maintained. 

  • Chemical Testing – One of the most important roles of the operator is ensuring the quality of the pool water. Pool water can be hazardous. If poorly treated, patrons can become sick from swimming pools. Cloudy water can lead to dangerous situations resulting from poor visibility. Operators are tasked with testing, recording and reporting a handful of chemical values each day. Generally, their records are required and collected by their local health department. Contact your county department of environmental health for the requirements in your area.  
  • Inventory Control – Commercial swimming pools require the usage of chemicals and several supplies. These items should be inventoried, recorded and ordered regularly to ensure uninterrupted operation of your pool. Chemicals must be appropriately labeled and stored. The protocols for safe chemical usage come directly from OSHA and are described in detail with each chemical’s safety data sheet. New operators should review the safe usage of their products with their chemical sales reps or distributers. 
  • Safety Checks – Pools present risks to patrons and staff alike and should be regularly inspected in an effort to mitigate risks. Operators must inspect barriers to entry daily to ensure appropriate control of their facility. State required rules must be posted alerting patrons to facility risks. Operators should carefully review their state code and should communicate with their local health department to carefully audit the safety of their facility. 
  • Preventative Maintenance – Facilities and equipment at commercial swimming pools represent a significant investment, with most facilities costing millions of dollars to build. Structures, surfaces and equipment at aquatic facilities should be well maintained according to manufacturers and builders’ specifications. These preventative maintenance strategies are most often found in operations and mechanical manuals. At many pools these manuals are stored together in what’s referred to as an O and M binder. Operators should locate this binder and keep it close at hand, as It will guide daily usage of equipment, preventative maintenance, and troubleshooting. 

Resources – Many resources are available for new and seasoned operators alike.

  • New pool operators should join a Certified Pool Operator training program. This 16-hour course covers daily operation, safety, efficiency and code compliance and is required in most jurisdictions. The CPO program is paired with a useful textbook that serves as a daily reference guide. The latest textbook includes several checklists and guides and is an invaluable resource for pool operators worldwide. 
  • Pools are most often regulated by county health departments enforcing statewide swimming pool codes. Those codes can be found here for each state. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines many of the standards and best practices of pool operators. These documents can be found on their pool-specific website