VivoAquatics Updates

How to Manage Risk at Your Commercial Pool and Spa

August 16, 2022

The successful operation of a commercial pool and spa is not an easy task. You are faced with a multitude of responsibilities which can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed. If you aren’t careful, you might start to cut corners or overlook key components of the job in an effort to juggle everything successfully while remaining time conscious. One of the most important responsibilities that you should never overlook remains pool safety. 

Technology has streamlined aquatic safety management. With an innovative software program such as VivoPoint, you can continuously monitor your entire facility’s aquatic and water risk profile using AI-driven analytics that are powered by an advanced aquatics operations platform

Using aquatics operations management software, like VivoPoint, coupled with IOT solutions, you can effortlessly manage your aquatic facility’s safety, compliance, and risk mitigation. You’ll have the edge you need to successfully construct and deploy effective KRIs (key risk indicators) while learning how important they are to your particular facility. 

Every property has its own KRIs to factor in when creating a swimming pool risk management plan. The KRIs vary depending on the type of property and industry. An example would be the KRIs for hospitality or multifamily properties which would examine the number of complaints the facility receives each month alongside the occupancy numbers. 

Ultimately, your goal is to effectively manage risk at your commercial pool and spa facility by identifying the potential dangers, developing a management plan, deploying effective aquatics operation software, and working to mitigate hazards on a daily basis. 

In this article, we examine how to create a pool risk management plan, help you identify the biggest risks at your commercial pool facility, show you ways to avoid the dangers while maintaining safety, and outline how aquatics management software can give you the tools you need to effectively and safely manage your pools and spas.

The Reality of Commercial Pool and Spa Accidents

Accidents can happen anywhere and anytime at a commercial aquatic facility.

Common causes of accidents include:

  • Slippery floors
  • Murky water
  • Broken or faulty equipment such as ladders, steps, or diving boards.
  • Poor lighting
  • Broken drains
  • Malfunctioning pumps
  • Lack of lifeguards
  • No pool markers that indicate depth 

Aquatic facility accidents can lead to serious injuries such as:

  • Head injuries
  • Dislocations
  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Nerve damage
  • Torn muscles
  • Sprains
  • Damage ligaments
  • Drowning
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death 

The Realities of Drowning 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that drowning remains a leading cause of death in children in the United States. Every year more young children (aged one two four) die from drowning than any other accidental or natural cause of death (except birth defects). Drowning is the second most common cause of unintentional injury for children ages one to 14 years old (motor vehicle accidents hold the number one spot) 

  • 11 drownings occur per day which results in death in the United States.
  • 22 nonfatal drownings occur each day in the United States.

Drowning injuries often lead to brain damage and other long-term disabilities. Over 40% of all drownings treated in an emergency room will also need hospitalization or even transfer to a long-term care facility. 

Although the above statistics do not separate drownings at a commercial pool and spa facility versus a home pool, lake, or ocean, the reality is that drowning is a severe risk no matter the location. 

The CDC goes on to list the common causes of drowning at aquatic facilities as the following:

  • Inability to Swim: Many adults and children cannot swim or are classified as weak swimmers which puts them at greater risk of drowning. 
  • Lack of Proper Fencing: Barriers are a necessity around a pool or spa. However, if there are gaps in the fencing or it has areas of breakage due to poor maintenance then young children can gain access to the pool or spa and could easily drown. 
  • Inadequate Supervision: Drowning can occur even when lifeguards are present if they fail to pay close attention to the premises and people using the pool.
  • Drinking Alcohol: Alcohol impairs a person’s balance, judgment, and coordination which increases the risk of drowning. 
  • Use of Medications or Drugs: Drugs and medications can easily impair the swimmer in much the same way as alcohol which increases the risk of drowning.

Drowning at an Aquatic Facility 

At a commercial pool or spa, drowning can occur due to a number of factors that run the gamut from improper signage or markings to water clarity. 

It is imperative that any commercial aquatic facility focus strongly on training staff and lifeguards properly to help protect the patrons’ lives and avoid potentially life-threatening dangers.

Historically, facilities have allowed lifeguards to sit down while on the job, but many believe that their attention may lag so new measures are being taken to avoid letting lifeguards sit for long stretches of time. Creating a balance between sitting and standing can help improve lifeguard alertness and save lives. 

Tom Griffiths, ED.D. of Penn State University developed the Five-Minute Scanning Strategy which is a lifeguard surveillance approach that requires all lifeguards to vary their posture and alter their scanning pattern every five minutes. The strategy helps to increase alertness while decreasing boredom, so a lifeguard is better able to notice someone drowning and save a life. 

Newly engineered lifeguard chairs that have a lower profile than the high-chair lifeguard chair variety are also being used at many aquatic facilities. Also, increasing the size of the lifeguard station so that the platform accommodates sitting, standing, and movement has also become a key element for fostering a more alert lifeguard response. 

The Danger of Entrapment 

Entrapment in a pool or spa takes place when the hair or body parts accidentally become trapped in the pool’s drain cover or suction fitting. Many states are currently in the process of launching safety standards that focus on entrapment dangers. However, as a commercial pool and spa owner, you need to take prompt steps to always guard against such accidents. 

Inspection of drains should be conducted on a daily basis. Any time the drain cover starts to show signs of wear, deterioration, degeneration such as cracks or fractures, and discoloration then it should be immediately replaced. 

Aquatic pool managers should also take great care to ensure that they never exceed the listed flow rates for the drain covers. Each one is rated based on extremely specific criteria.

 Additional ways to decrease entrapment dangers include: 

  • Regular maintenance of all equipment.
  • Install two or more hydraulically balanced main drains for each pump.
  • Use only approved ANSI/NSF-50 drain cover.
  • Have a safety vacuum release system in place that notes any increased vacuum suction and automatically kills the pump when the increase is detected. 
  • Have an emergency shut-off button/kill switch for all pumps near the facility premises. 

Always keep pool users away from the drains if at all possible. Have signage in place that lets the swimmers know that entrapment can occur and to remain vigilant. 

For additional information on pool and spa drain safety, visit: 

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at or the National Spa and Pool Institute at

Create a Pool Risk Management Plan 

Maintaining a swimming pool risk management program helps mitigate problems by providing a concrete blueprint that outlines the safe operation of your aquatic facility. 

  • Step One: Create a plan to manage risk at your commercial pool and spa step is to outline an aquatics standards and checklist. 
  • Step Two: Familiarize yourself with the local regulations and laws of your state or local government. 
  • Step Three: Learn the basics for your area such as the lifeguard certification standards and which certifying body oversees the process. 
  • Step Four: Know and understand the state and local health codes that regulate aquatic facilities.

Information to Include in Your Pool Risk Management Program 

Depending on the type of your aquatic facility, you can turn to various national associations for guidance when devising your checklist:

Equipment manufacturers also carry their own checklists that you’ll want to go over for your particular equipment.

11 Tips for Mitigating Risk At Your Aquatic Facility

Here are 11 additional tips for mitigating risk at your aquatic facility. 

Establish a Safety Team 

Every commercial pool and spa facility should have personnel who focus on safety. Appoint key employees or management to act as your safety committee. They will review risk findings and create a list of priorities to ensure safety and mitigate potential hazards or causes of injury. 

The team will be tasked with handling everything from signage for pool depth to overseeing safety equipment and familiarizing themselves with the critical hazardous areas at the facility. Once problem areas have been targeted, they can then work to decrease the potentially dangerous elements before they become serious issues. 

Municipalities that appoint an aquatic safety team often enlist the aid of critical staff, the maintenance superintendent, the municipality’s legal counsel, purchasing representative, insurance representative, and aquatic staff to spearhead the safety operations and circumvent any risks before they become problems. 

Once an aquatics facility safety team has been established, it is time to keep everyone in the loop when it comes to safety and risk. Regular audits will strengthen the safety team and develop unity as everyone works towards keeping the facility functioning in a safe environment. 

Auditing also fosters accountability with lifeguards and management. Collaborating with each other closely helps ensure that everyone is on the same page to form a strong working relationship that never loses sight of ensuring the safe functioning of the facility for all guests and staff. 

Everyone should focus on maintaining constant vigilance against drawing, electrocution, diving, and water quality. 

Make Compliance and Water Safety Your #1 Priority

You want to maintain a sparkling clean pool that not only looks inviting but is also safe and disease free. If the pool’s water appears cloudy then it is not perfectly balanced and could lead to dangerous waterborne diseases. 

Properly maintaining your pool's water should always be a leading priority. Management and staff should have a broad knowledge of the facility’s water chemistry. 

VivoPoint provides continuous monitoring of your aquatic facility’s water risk profiles. Access water data from your table, desktop, or pool across multiple properties. You’ll gain daily logs of the water chemistry readings. Effortlessly track the water safety score, chemical usage, and water usage. 

Maintaining water compliance is one of the most important safety functions involved in commercial aquatics risk management. 

Install Proper Signage 

Always install proper signage on the deck that states “no running.” Always place appropriate signage around the deck area to denote areas that might become slippery when wet. 

And do not skimp on signage! Have all of the essentials such as ‘No Diving” signs, emergency signs, CPR instructions, pool rules, and capacity signs. 

Maintain Depth Warnings

Always maintain clear depth warnings along with pool bottom lines that are highly visible. 

Do not use simple numbers. Instead, clearly show the numerical depth followed by meters or feet so the user does not mistake 4 meters for 4 feet. 

Depending on your aquatic facility’s location, diving depth recommendations are constantly changing. Many national and high-school interscholastic associations have changed the recommendation from a 3.5-foot depth standard to an 8-foot recommendation. The American Red Cross does not recommend teaching diving unless a facility has at least 9 feet of water. 

Protect from Electrocution with a Connected Bonding System

The risk of electrocution is often overlooked by pool facilities. With an abundance of metal at a commercial pool and spa, it is imperative that the aquatic facility have a connected bonding system. Bonding refers to the connection of metal in a facility to a common copper wire that is buried beneath the ground. It is connected to steel in the structure and reduces the voltage gradience in the facility which helps protect pool users from potential electrocution. 

Keep Resuscitation Equipment On-hand 

Keep all resuscitation equipment on-hand and within easy reach. Make sure the equipment meets the requirements of the certifying agency such as the American Red Cross. 

Perform Regular Checks of Dive Boards and Other Equipment 

Always check to ensure that the non-slip grit on the surface of the dive boards is intact. Also regularly examine the dive board’s bolts and side rails to make sure that nothing has loosened. Have your staff regularly clean the surface of the dive board to prevent it from being slippery. 

Be sure to also regularly carry out checks of the backboards, first aid kits, CPR masks, safety hoods, reach poles, rescue tubes, head immobilizers, and life rings. 

Consider Building Fencing and Nighttime Barriers

If your aquatic facility calls for it, fencing your pool can help mitigate risk. Try building a fence around the perimeter with gates. All gates should self-latch.

You can also install nighttime barriers around the pool. A fence and cover secure the pool and prevent access or unscheduled use when the pool is closed.

Perform Regular Checks of Dive Boards and Other Equipment 

Always check to ensure that the non-slip grit on the surface of the dive boards is intact. Also regularly examine the dive board’s bolts and side rails to make sure that nothing has loosened. Have your staff regularly clean the surface of the dive board to prevent it from being slippery. 

Be sure to also regularly carry out checks of the backboards, first aid kits, CPR masks, safety hoods, reach poles, rescue tubes, head immobilizers, and life rings. 

Make Sure Pool Depth is Clear 

While many commercial pools have a no-diving rule, this isn’t always obeyed. That’s why it’s extra important to make sure swimmers have the right depth perception. 

Line the pool bottom correctly so it appears clearly. The linking will let divers see the bottom better to make a more accurate determination of depth. 

Implement Detection Tools

Modern technology is taking safety to a whole new level. Using water management software to monitor and decrease potential risk throughout your pool and spa operations offers a number of benefits for risk management. 

Safety monitoring systems such as underwater cameras have become a popular addition to commercial pools and spas. The camera provides a clear image of the pool’s bottom so that staff can easily monitor water. Many of the cameras also have motion detection which sets off an alarm any time a swimmer is at the bottom of the pool for too long. Undoubtedly, underwater cameras are a must have for drowning protection. They function as aids to work alongside quality and vigilant staff to ensure additional safety at your aquatic facility. 

When monitoring multiple pools. You have only seconds to look for a missing child. You don't want to waste valuable time. The systems work with software to ensure a safe scan of all pool bottoms and take safety to the next level. 

Yes, such a system might be a sizable financial investment, but it's certainly cheaper than a lawsuit and you want to always ensure the safety of your guests. 

Underwater surveillance cameras are especially beneficial any time there is glare on the water which makes it hard to see the bottom of the pool. 

The glare can easily obstruct entire sections of the pool and lifeguards simply cannot clearly see the bottom. A person or child could be underwater and completely miss the angle of the victim. An underwater camera and alert system will let you locate the person promptly which can save a life. 

How VivoPoint Can Manage Areas of Risk at a Commercial Pool and Spa 

VivoPoint not only helps mitigate risk associated with recreational water illnesses by providing notifications and consistent water quality readings but also reduces potential risk from accidents by helping you stay up to date on preventative maintenance and ensure ongoing compliance. 

Preventative maintenance and compliance help prevent the fiscal impact of:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Punitive damages
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Wrongful death damages 

Take A Free Introductory Risk Analysis Today! 

A risk management plan for commercial pools is imperative to ensure the safety of your guests. Pinpointing potential risks throughout your facility is one of the ways to circumvent potential costly problems and continue providing a safe aquatic facility for your guests.

At VivoAquatics, we invite you to complete our Free Introductory Risk Analysis. It takes only 15 minutes to complete. You’ll be asked to answer a few brief questions that will let our Risk Mitigation team better determine the risks within your aquatic facilities. 

Upon completion, our VivoAquatics Data Scientist will contact you to follow up and go over the next steps that will help you lower your insurance and risk costs to enhance your guests’ experiences and expand your facility's bottom line. 

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