Government agencies have developed regulations and codes to ensure commercial pool and spa safety. Management of aquatic facilities must sustain a clean, safe, and healthy environment for the public by striving to meet the set minimum standards.
When dealing with water safety, maintaining the necessary chemicals to ensure cleanliness might seem like a non-stop juggling act with constant chemical checks. If you don’t remain vigilant with monitoring, even the slightest change upsets the balance and creates unseen dangers. Any chink in the armor can let hazardous water borne diseases and contaminants gain a foothold.
Aquatics operations software helps keep you ahead of the curve and lets you maintain your pool and spa’s pristine beauty and safety in a cost efficient and sustainable manner.
Whether you are overseeing a booming community pool or caretaking the pool and spa of a high-end resort, the task of meeting all compliance standards is a never-ending responsibility.
If a pool falls short of compliance and fails to meet the necessary regulations involved in maintenance and operation, then users of the pool face dire hazards and risks which puts the owners of the aquatic facility at an elevated level of liability.
Managing and operating a commercial aquatic facility is a multi-faceted job. You’re responsible for following various laws and regulations to ensure that your pool or spa remains compliant.
As a pool owner, it is your responsibility to meet emerging and existing facility requirements. The necessity for compliance and liability reduction are two big reasons you might want to consider using aquatics operations software to ensure pool compliance. Your aquatics management and staff need to stay up to date on the national and local regulations.
Safely Operating Commercial Aquatic Facilities
Anyone tasked with maintaining a commercial pool or spa system has to focus on preventing recreational water illnesses (RWIs).
Poor pool safety compliance and improper or infrequent maintenance procedures will cause a low disinfectant level which easily creates a living environment where germs flourish. Swimmers can easily contract diarrhea, skin, and respiratory issues RWIs in such unsanitary conditions.
Pool staff alone cannot overcome the danger of RWIs. Instead, aquatic managers should invest in an automated pool monitoring system and take the following measures outlined by the CDC report to ensure pool safety compliance.
- Ensure that all pool staff have obtained both state and local authority-recommended chemical handling and operator training, so they know exactly how to maintain swimming pool compliance to ensure the safety of anyone who enjoys the pool or spa.
- Keep trained staff on hand during the weekends and holidays to ensure cleanliness and safety since most pools and spas are used more frequently during that time.
- Continuously maintain the free chlorine levels between one to three parts per million.
- Monitor the water’s pH level to ensure it stays at 7.2 to 7.8.
- Conduct testing of the disinfectant and pH twice a day. If the pool or spa is sustaining heavy use, then check the levels every hour.
- Keep accurate records of the pH and disinfectant levels.
- Maintain a log of all maintenance activities conducted by pool staff.
- Regularly maintain the entire filtration and recirculation systems by following the manufacturer's recommendations.
- Continuously remove any slime layer that might build up on the pool surfaces.
- Drain and replace water portions in the pool and spa either weekly or monthly depending on the water’s quality and the amount of usage the pool or spa sustains.
- Use biocidal shock treatments either daily or weekly depending on how often you replace the water and the water’s quality.
Additional necessary steps to maintaining safety for swimmers and spa users include:
- Maintain cleanliness of the area around the pool such as restrooms, diaper changing areas and showers.
- Ensure safety in all areas surrounding the pool to prevent slipping, sliding, or falling over objects.
- Continue to enforce bather load limits.
- Conduct an extensive preventive maintenance program that focuses on replacing parts and equipment before failure occurs. Focus on items like sensor probes, injectors, and feed pump tubing.
- Ensure that your staff has disinfection guidelines if a body fluid or fecal spill should occur in the water.
- Always have an employee policy in place if a staff member becomes ill with an RWIs.
- Provide group orientations and a set of rules for swimmers, especially young children, which outline necessary bathroom break policies to promote healthy swimming and keeping the pool’s water clean and sanitary. You’ll want to educate all pool users and parents of children using the pool about RWIs.
Chlorine Maintenance in a Commercial Aquatic System
Pools and aquatic venues regularly rely on chlorine to effectively kill germs. However, when a swimmer enters the pool, the chlorine will bind with the swimmer’s body waste such as sweat or urine. The chlorine is then transformed into what is referred to as the chemical form chloramines.
Dichloramine and trichloramine (all chloramines) often cause irritation of the skin, nose, and eyes by giving off gas from the water which then circulates above the water in the air. It can become particularly potent indoors.
Chloramines also cause metals to corrode, particularly in the aquatic venue’s air handling systems.
How Can a Pool Operator Prevent Chloramines?
Chloramines (a type of combined chlorine) form in the pool water and then release gas into the air above the water. Depending on where your commercial pool is located, state, county and city officials and departments usually set a limit on the combined chlorine in the water at a rate of 0.4 ppm or less.
The chloramines quickly build up in the water and then in the air above the pool if there is not a sufficient amount of fresh air circulating around the pool.
Some indoor aquatic facilities have insufficient air handling systems which do not adequately circulate fresh air and effectively exhaust the chloramine pollution from the building. Such an event is extremely common during winter months when the need to heat the space becomes necessary.
Chloramine gasses are heavier than air, so they hover just above the surface of the water which makes the gas difficult to remove from an indoor aquatic facility. The Chloramines settle on the top of the water and impact the health of both the swimmers and spectators.
Things that cause chloramines to buildup in the air:
- When a swimmer moves through the water’s surface with the simple act of swimming, it sends water spray through the pool's features.
- Limited movement of adequate fresh air across the surface of the water.
- Insufficient air handling systems often fail to bring in sufficient fresh air to lower the chloramine air pollution levels - especially during the winter months.
Insufficient Air Handling Systems
Often air handling systems simply cannot efficiently remove adequate moisture from the air. They cannot bring in enough clean air or exhaust the chloramine air pollution from the facility. Investing in a newer air handling system might ensure hotel compliance for hotels with indoor pools and other aquatic facilities.
Additional Steps Needed to Get Rid of Chloramines
Encourage safe swimming practices to prevent chloramine from developing in your aquatic facility's water by eliminating or reducing dirt, pee, poo, urine, and sweat.
- Post signs in clear locations for swimmers and staff. The signs should advise against entering the water if someone is suffering from diarrhea, to use the bathroom before entering water, to wear a swim cap over hair, and to never urinate or defecate in the water.
- Require that swimmers and staff rinse their bodies before entering the water. Even a fast shower can effectively remove sweat, oils, and other body residue to help reduce the level of chloramines.
- Ensure that staff stays alert to possible fecal contamination in the water. An excessive chloramine odor in a particular swimming area can indicate that there is too much fecal matter in the pool. Also, swimmers reporting eye, skin or respiratory problems indicate a problem.
- Any parent of a child or swimmer who has a fecal incident in the pool should face a fee or fine.
Creating Greater Air Flow
Here are a few tips to generate greater air to lower the chlorine build up in aquatic facilities.
- Install a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to ensure that air flows across the pool water’s surface and is effectively pulled towards the air exhaust vents to stop the buildup of the chloramines that occur on the water’s surface.
- Always exhaust the chloramine polluted air from the swimming area and onward to the outside.
- Pull fresh air in from the outside. Remember, if the fresh air is cold then your facility’s heating costs can increase but if your patrons become sick due to chloramine contamination then the overall cost to your facility could end up substantially more.
Monitoring Chlorine Levels
Continuously monitor the chlorine levels in the pool or spa water and then treat the water, when necessary, especially if the levels become too high. Commercial pool automation is highly beneficial at regularly monitoring the water’s chlorine levels so you can stay ahead and automatically know if any cornering changes occur.
The automation system calculates the levels of chlorine in the following fashion:
- Measures the total chlorine levels in the water.
- Determines the amount of free chlorine in the water.
- Subtracts the free chlorine number from the total chlorine number.
Here is the common formula to remember:
Combined chlorine = total chlorine - free chlorine.
When the chlorine level is too high (above 0.4 ppm) then you’ll want to quickly get rid of the chloramines that build up.
Superchlorinate to remove the gas chloramines which will then start to convert them to nitrogen gas.
To achieve this:
- Close pool is to all aquatic activities such as swimming.
- Ensure that the aquatic facility is well-ventilated because you undertake superchlorination (also referred to as breakpoint chlorination) then you’ll cause gassing of the chloramines which then converts to nitrogen gas.
- To superchlorinate, you’ll increase the chlorine level to 10 times the combined chlorine percentage.
- Following the increase, bring down the free chlorine to the normal operating range.
- Further break down the harmful chloramines in the water by using either an ozone system or an ultraviolet light which all effectively kill cryptosporidium (a microscopic parasite that can quickly cause diarrhea and other health problems)
Commercial Pool Chemical Safety Tips
Part of maintaining water safety and compliance at your commercial pool and spa facilities includes the caretaker practices of maintaining pool chemical safety.
Chlorine and bromine are common pool chemicals that are constantly added to pools, spas, and water playgrounds to keep swimmers safe from harmful germs.
Additional pool chemicals are also often used during the disinfection process and to maintain pH control, stop corrosion, prevent scaling on equipment, halt algal growth, and improve water quality.
All of the chemicals used to maintain commercial pool and spa facilities can easily injure people, or staff who fail to use protective equipment during handling.
Below are a few recommendations on how to prevent chemical injuries from pool supplies:
- Keep all pool chemicals in a storage area/pump room.
- Ensure that all aquatics staff and pool patrons have access to safety showers if they should sustain exposure to pool chemicals.
- Always have spill containment in the storage areas to stop chemical leaks or spills when mixing chemicals.
- Have fire suppression equipment within easy access ( contact your local fire department and code enforcement agency to determine the required guidelines for your area.
- Maintain sufficient lighting to ensure that your pool staff can easily read the labels on pool chemical containers, any posted instructions, or safety protocols.
- Indoor venues should ensure that the facility’s air handling system is sufficient. Check your local building codes or research the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
- Install a separate air handling system in the chemical storage area, and pump area for added safety in the event of a chemical spill.
- Keep the pump room and chemical storage area well ventilated.
- Secure the pump room and chemical storage area and limit access to the locations to staff only.
- Ensure that no children or pets can enter the chemical storage room or pump room.
- Maintain an alarm system to alert the staff immediately if the recirculation pump should shut off or fail.
- Install a device that will deactivate the chlorine/pH feed pump if there is a low flow or no flow coming from the recirculation system.
- Ensure that all chemical controllers have a locking mechanism.
- Place personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety data sheets (SDSs) within easy access within the pump room or chemical storage area.
- Keep all PPE and SDSs up to date and new.
- Research fire codes and local/state building codes to ensure that you store the chemicals properly.
- Maintain the temperature in the pool chemical.
- Store the aquatic facility’s pool chemicals in compliance with state, local, and fire codes.
- Maintain the pool chemicals at 95 degrees Fahrenheit or whatever temperature the chemical manufacturer recommends.
- Keep the chemicals in an area with low humidity and direct sunlight.
- Prevent the pool chemicals from becoming wet
- Never accidentally mix together chemicals stored beside each other.
- Always leave chemicals in their manufacturer labeled containers.
- Properly dispose of any unwanted chemicals per the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are unsure of how to dispose of the chemical, then contact your local or state hazardous materials department to learn the proper disposal method.
- Store pool chemicals away from heat, gasoline, diesel, or flames.
- Maintain the chemical storage room and pump room in a sanitary way by promptly disposing of trash and debris.
- Always store drinks and foods away from chemicals.
- Post instruction outlining all chemical safety practices in the pump room and the storage area.
- Immediately respond to any report of a chemical spill and have your staff follow an emergency response plan and use the necessary dedicated materials to effectively clean up the spill.
As an aquatic facility owner or operator, you’ll want to only let experienced and trained staff manage all pool chemicals. You’ll need to maintain effective communication with your staff and establish a firm chain of command.
Require that your staff regularly document all pool chemicals used. With aquatic software, it's easy to document all chemical use carried out by your staff.
Take the time to train your team in the basics of pool chemical safety practices. Always offer additional training to your staff who work in direct contact with the chemicals.
When training your employees be sure to cover the following criteria to reduce the incidences of possible chemical injuries:
- Go over every pool chemical and how it impacts the water’s chemistry and your aquatic facility’s monitoring system.
- Provide a layout of the chemical storage area and the pump area to your employees
- Always calculate the venue volume and determine the needed chemical amounts.
- Cover the basics of safe chemical storage and handling.
- Hold classes that outline the first aid steps needed if an exposure to pool chemicals should occur.
- Provide important Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources to your staff such as the following:
- Hazard Communication Guidelines for Compliance (OSHA 3111)
- Chemical Hazard Communication (OSHA 3084)
Maintenance and Repair
You’ll need to regularly maintain your commercial pool and spa facilities and, on occasion, carry out repairs. During repairs and maintenance, you’ll need to conduct the following:
When the recirculation system starts to run low or fails then you’ll need to close your aquatic venue to the public while servicing the recirculation system and pH/chlorine control feed.
Never allow swimmers back into the aquatic facility until the chlorine/pH control feed and recirculation system have restarted and run for a minimum of five minutes to ensure that the water quality is at an acceptable standard.
Additional pool and spa maintenance and repair tips include:
- Shut off the chlorine and pH control feed and recirculation systems prior to starting any service.
- Always make sure there is adequate ventilation in the pool facility and pump room.
- Only have trained staff to service and train the chlorine control feed and recirculation systems.
- Put in place protocols that cover all maintenance practices to prevent the accidental mixing of pool chemicals.
- Require that staff document all repairs and maintenance.
- Have a preventative maintenance program in place that checks for leaks, defective clamps, or valuables, and replaces aging tubing when needed.
Create an Emergency Response Plan
Draft an emergency response plan and provide copies to all of your staff. Keep the plan close by and post it in a plain view of your staff such as in the pump room, chemical storage area and break room. You should also have the response plan available on your staffs’ mobile devices.
You’ll want to frequently conduct drills to the emergency response of your staff.
It should cover the following:
- Spills clean up
- Chemical exposure response protocol
- Chain of command in the event of an emergency with all contact information
- Plan to alert swimmers, patrons, fellow staff, and emergency responders in the event of an emergency.
- Evacuation plan
Part of maintaining water safety and ensuring pool compliance is to have a firm contamination response system to stop any pool-related safety or health problems immediately if they should occur.
All pool operators should complete formal training to effectively maintain the pool’s water quality and ensure the health of swimmers.
Contact the local and state health department’s pool inspection group (you’ll often find them listed under Environmental Health) to learn about the pool operator training courses in your area which have been found to meet the local and state requirements.
- Germs in the Pool
Fecal matter in the pool or spas water can quickly lead to serious RWIs if a swimmer should swallow the contaminated water. In some cases, a swimmer might suffer from diarrhea and accidentally contaminate the water.
Chlorine kills most germs within minutes of exposure but not all and chlorine is not immediate. It does take time to work. In the case of Cryptosporidium, it can take days to kill the germs even if the water has the proper chlorine levels. Even the best maintained aquatic environment has the potential to spread germs.
Here are a few examples of how long chlorine takes to kill common germs found in pools and spas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- E. coli O157:H7 Bacteria - under one minute
- Hepatitis A Virus - 16 minutes
- Giardia Parasite - 45 minutes
- Crypto - Over ten days
- Vomit and Blood in the Pool
It’s common for swimmers to vomit in the pool, especially after accidentally ingesting too much pool water. If a person should vomit the water, then the process can spread disease. Your aquatic staff should respond rapidly to clean up vomit in the pool by following the same protocol as fecal matter in the pool. Chlorine does kill germs that occur in blood such as HIV and hepatitis b.
Pool Compliance Software
Maintaining compliance for a commercial pool or spa facility has never been easier with pool compliance software.
VivoPoint commercial pool and spa operations software uses smart technology to let facility owners prevent problems and guarantee that everything continues to run smoothly.
The software system provides predictive analytics and reporting to help you better manage all of your aquatic operations. In addition, the entire platform is easy to implement and completely customizable so you can tailor it to meet your own property needs.
With VivoPoint, you can easily maintain pool compliance with the health department. You’ll enjoy daily logging and easy to use task lists. The software also lets you track assets onsite to better budget and assist in purchasing decisions.
Know quickly if your water is within compliance by MAHC (Model Aquatic Health Code) and automatically be alerted if there is a problem by utilizing the software so you can quickly take proactive action.
Using the VivoPoint commercial pool and spa software can provide the following benefits:
- 15% savings on water usage
- 20% reduction in chemical costs
- 31% of users report extended equipment Iife
- 32% savings on all labor costs
Automation Systems for Pools
VivoPoint and VivoPoint PRO provide greater visibility into your commercial pool & spa operations, as well as full automation monitoring for chemical controllers. The modular hardware and sensor platform continually monitors and regulates your pool or spas water chemistry while providing you with access to valuable and essential insights.
You can manage your commercial pool and spa facilities in real time from anywhere on the globe using the cloud-based system. Stay in the loop even if you aren’t physically at the facility. Connect using iOS or Android, mobile devices, or a desktop to stay up to date and find management solutions for your commercial pool and spa problems.
The system is easy to implement. You can have it up and running within minutes using the integrated communications bundle. The platform is also fully customizable to meet your particular aquatic property’s needs and portfolio.
The team at VivoAquatics works side by side with all facility operators and owners to help maintain compliance and meet government regulations. We know the challenges that you face running commercial pool and spa facilities. Our focus is to help you create a safe guest experience that is exceptional while managing costs.
If you would like to learn more about VivoAquatics software solutions, please book a 15-minute consultation.