Regular auditing of your natatorium, pools, spas, slides, waterfeatures and play elements can help you better meet the needs of your patrons — and operate a safer, cleaner, more efficient aquatics facility.

An audit can identify cost-saving measures, reveal energy waste and reduce your overall operating cost. In today’s economy, that might make the difference between keeping your doors open and shutting down. Additionally, audits can highlight environmental hazards, indoor air quality, and water  clarity or quality problems that could lead to a devastating outbreak or disease transmission through pool water or natatorium air. Finally, an audit can alert you to unsafe practices, violations of statutes or regulations, or noncompliance with industry standards.

You should conduct four different types of audits:

  • A pre-opening walk-through. Do this on a daily basis to make sure you have complied with all of your standard operating procedures and your facility is ready to open to the public.
  • A monthly inspection. Your facility’s safety team, consisting of aquatics specialists, facility management, maintenance employees and user representatives, should perform this audit.
  • An in-house audit. This audit should be performed annually so that replacement needs can be identified, preventive maintenance can be performed and seasonal repairs can be completed.
  • An extensive audit. It’s best to bring in an outside consultant for this audit at least once every five years.

Prior to beginning the audit, goals should be set. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my purpose for conducting the audit? 
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • If a need for major changes in policy or operational procedures is identified, am I willing to make the necessary changes?
  • If safety or code violations are identified, am I willing to close the facility or take a piece of equipment out of service until the violations are corrected? 
  • If equipment is in need of replacement or repair, are funds immediately available to purchase new equipment or schedule repairs?

Once you’re prepared to conduct the audit, you should:

  • Determine when the pool was built, and if and when any major renovations took place. Review the “as built” plans. 
  • Gather information on water volume, typical turnover time and flow rate, total dynamic head, pool dimensions,  average daily bather loads, hours and days of operation, the primary reason for using the pool, altitude and earthquake zone, how water is disposed of, and whether it is pre-treated or neutralized prior to disposal. 
  • Review the applicable bathing codes so you are aware of requirements and will recognize violations when you see them.
  • Review incident reports or complaints that have been filed by staff members or patrons relating to the air or water quality in the natatorium.

To get started, briefly walk through the entire facility, getting a feel for how it is laid out, where things are in relation to each other, and a sense of the facility’s overall condition. Take photographs for reference at a later time, and so you can illustrate particular problems in your report. Read labels, warnings and all signage. Record brands, models and sizes of equipment and components. Analyze the pool water and source water. Perform circulation dye tests.  Record illumination levels. Take measurements and prepare diagrams and calculations.

Inspect the pools, decks, filter rooms, chemical rooms, locker rooms, storage areas, auxiliary areas and all related equipment. Conduct the audit by observing and evaluating:

  • The pool itself — the condition of the shell and surface materials, tile, drains and suction outlets, perimeter-overflow system, skimmers, grates, equalizer lines, freshwater fill spouts, and return inlets
  • Markings in the pool — lane lines; targets; drop-off lines; and color-contrasting edging on steps, ramps, seating tiers and other protrusions into the pool
  • Methods of ingress and egress — steps, ladders, handrails, recessed treads and grab rails, chair lifts, wet or dry ramps, movable floors
  • The water in the pool — note any problems. Is it discolored or cloudy? Are mineral stains or algae present? If the water is anything but crystal clear, try to determine why.
  • Decks — surface material, unobstructed width, slip resistance, coping stones, deck plates installed where equipment has been removed, deck drainage, cleaning and disinfection procedures
  • Maintenance issues — type of vacuum and frequency of vacuuming, brushing and skimming of debris; trash containers; presence of markings or graffiti; and pest prevention measures. Review all daily, seasonal and preventive maintenance checklists.
  • Safety equipment — location of emergency telephones, E-stop buttons, elevated lifeguard chairs, fire extinguishers, location of all safety, rescue and first aid equipment, presence of buoyed lifelines, review of the surveillance plan
  • Miscellaneous equipment — drinking fountains, thermal insulating blankets, reels, underwater observation windows, movable floors, bulkheads
  • Signage — rules, safety information and warnings, instructional information, all code- required signage, bather capacity limits, depth markers and contour depth charts
  • Competitive swimming equipment — racing lanes, storage reels, backstroke flags and support stanchions, starting blocks, pace clocks, timing systems
  • Acoustical treatment — sound quality, reverberation and background noise, design problems that exacerbate the problem
  • Lighting — illumination level, number of deck and pool lights, bulb type and wattage, window location and treatment, glare problems, security lighting
  • Electrical safety — presence and regular testing of GFCIs and grounding wires, Lockout/Tagout kit, location of electrical outlets in relation to the pool, use of electrical appliances or equipment and extension cords on the pool deck, clearances around electrical panels, yearly electrical inspection certificates, proof that installation of equipment and all major electrical repairs were performed by a licensed electrician, lightning detector on the premises, closure policies for lightning and severe weather have been developed and evacuation procedures practiced within the previous six months
  • Barriers — type of barrier and effectiveness; fence height and openings; gates and doors; emergency exits; pool and deck alarms; video surveillance; drowning detection systems
  • Diving boards and apparatus — location and spacing; overhang; ladders; treads; handrails; surfacing; condition of nuts, bolts, hinges, fulcrums, footwheels, rails, rail mounting devices; overhead clearances; depths below and forward for at least 18 feet; shock-absorbing material on deck below; use restrictions
  • HVAC system — water temperature and ambient air temperature maintained, relative humidity, ventilation rates, air distribution pattern, percentage of fresh air introduced, monitoring of air quality, and presence of unpleasant odors or fumes
  • Pump room — surge chamber, hair and lint strainer, pumps and motor assemblies, pipes, flow meters, pressure and vacuum gauges, valves, filter tanks, air-relief valves, sight glasses, sump pit or backwash holding tank, controllers, chemical feeders, heaters, and all other circulation  and filtration system components. Also examine acceptability of the filtration and hydraulic systems in achieving desired results in water clarity and quality, minimum flow rates, and turnover time.
  • Chemical rooms — chemical inventory, storage  practices, dispensing methods, MSDS stations, containment and spill cleanup, emergency drench showers and eyewashes, personal safety gear
  • Code compliance — state health and safety, building, general industry safety, plumbing, electrical, educational and administrative codes that pertain to design, construction, operation and maintenance of pools within the state; federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Uniform Fire Code, EPA (SARA Title III, FIFRA) and OSHA (Confined Spaces, Hazardous Materials, Bloodborne Pathogens) regulations

Try to prepare your report as soon as possible after completing the audit. Explain to the facility manager the importance of keeping the report and recommendations confidential. Recommendations that are ignored have a way of coming back to haunt you if an incident relating to the item occurs at a later time. The sheer number of items that will likely need to be addressed can seem overwhelming.  So there is a tendency to read the report, then just stick it on a shelf because you don’t even know where to start. Instead, have a plan in place for identifying and taking action on the most important issues. Correct serious safety- related issues immediately. Then prioritize all remaining items.

Develop a long-range plan for tackling each recommendation, and checking each item off the list once it’s been taken care of or satisfactorily addressed.