In April 2009, a committee was formed to develop the Risk Management/Safety Module for the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code.

The committee spent countless hours researching, writing, editing and re-editing the content for the code. The team — including builders, operators, health department officials, chemical manufacturers and educational organizations — was committed to conducting necessary research and providing supported feedback as we sought to address safety and risk management challenges for the wide variety of aquatic venues.

Our focus was giving direction on safety topics that would provide a safe experience for patrons, as well as help mitigate risks for aquatic venues. The module addresses common safety and risk management topics such as chemical handling and storage; employee training; record keeping; inspections; evacuation procedures; depth markers; signage; lighting; materials and water temperatures.

This module includes an annex to provide additional and supporting information on the topics. It answered questions such as the ones below; following are brief answers. For complete recommendations, you should refer to the actual module, which can be found online:

Q: Do lazy rivers and wading pools need depth markers?

A: No, but the patron should be informed at the entry point.

Q: When do I need artificial lighting in my pool, and how much lighting do I need?

A: It’s needed if, when the pool is operating, there is a lack of artificial lighting, or it’s operating at night. The lighting provided must have the ability to detect a bather and allow visibility of the pool floor.

Q: Where should emergency phones be placed in an aquatic venue?

A: Permanently affixed and visible from within the pool enclosure.

Q: How should chemicals be stored?

A: In compliance with the manufacturer’s MSDS and applicable codes.

Q: What should I include in my emergency plan?

A: Information about the facility, emergency response equipment and plans for the types of emergencies.

Q: Can my employee still work in the pool if he has been ill with diarrhea?

A: No. Create an employee illness policy for your facility.

Q: What do I need to check before opening my pool?

A: Items include water quality levels, operational equipment and facility safety.

As we developed the module, the committee strove for performance-based content as opposed to objective criteria, with detailed information in the annex to help understand how to accomplish the intent of those standards. For example, we described the desired outcome of appropriate lighting for particular locations instead of numeric values that may not achieve the desired results due to the vast diversity of aquatic venues. That was in part because we couldn’t find any scientific data to support a definitive level of lighting.

As technology advances in the aquatics industry, the committee decided that our guidelines must allow for these opportunities and not limit design innovation. For example, lighting aquatic venues above and underwater can be accomplished with several different means. In the same way, we didn’t want to restrict use of underwater surveillance technology that facilities could use as part of their lifeguard supervision strategies.  So this section allows different options for differing venues and technological innovations.

The module addresses employee safety and training as it relates to pool chemical use and public health concerns, consistent with the CDC’s focus on healthy swimming. We realized that education needs to be a two-pronged approach. First, patrons need proper signage that educates and informs them about healthy swimming behaviors. Second, employees need necessary training and education so they can serve as role models for patrons and provide a safe swimming environment. Ultimately, a safe workplace for employees creates a safe environment for patrons.

The public comment period for this module recently closed. The next steps involve a review and response by the MAHC Steering Committee and the Technical Committee as necessary. Once all sections have been posted for public comment and those comments are considered and addressed, the entire Model Aquatic Health Code will be posted for another comment period prior to final publishing. The module will be available on the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code site with comments included until the entire Model Aquatic Health Code is posted in its final format. More information can be found on the CDC’s Model Aquatic Code Website.