Going to your local municipal pool is a great way to keep cool and active in the summer. However, as with all facilities for physical activity, swimming pools are best enjoyed when we follow the health and safety rules. Here are the most important tips to keep in mind when heading to the pool.
Wear a swimming cap
They may not be the most attractive fashion accessories, but swimming caps are necessary, not only for your health but also for that of other users, as well as the proper maintenance of the pool itself. Covering your hair with a swimming cap keeps its dry and protects it against the chemicals in the pool.
Listen to the lifeguards
Lifeguards are there to keep you safe, and when they give an instruction, it’s for your own good. Always listen to what they have to say and make sure that any children in your care do the same.
The water in public pools is kept sanitary through the use of chemicals such as chlorine. This is great for pool users in general, but it’s known to cause irritation to the eyes. Goggles keep your eyes protected against the chlorine and other substances used to treat the water. They also allow you to see clearly underwater, which makes the experience of swimming both more fun and safer.
Wear appropriate swimwear
Don’t jump in the water in your underwear or the shorts you’ve been wearing all day. Change into a proper swimsuit. These are made of materials specifically designed for use in water, making for a more comfortable experience all round. Good quality swimwear is chlorine resistant, which both prevents too much contact of the chemical with your skin, and also extends the life of the garment itself. Incidentally, properly made swimwear also reduces drag, enabling you to move through the water faster, which is great if you’re a competitive swimmer, looking to increase your lap speed.
Clean up before you dive in
It’s always advisable to take a shower before diving into the pool. The management of some facilities actually insist on it. Going into the pool clean is just good manners and helps maintain the quality of the water, as well as being hygienic for all pool users.
Don’t cross lanes
Public pools are open to many different kinds of users. Some may be there just to splash around and enjoy the water. Then there are others who are there to swim lengths, taking their speed and technique very seriously. Each group needs to be considerate of the other. If you’re there for some leisure time, be conscious of the serious swimmers and don’t cross into their lanes or hang around on the lane dividers. If you’re there to shave a few seconds off your front crawl length, be considerate to other users and know that not everyone came to the pool on a mission.
Tread carefully at the poolside
We probably all remember our parents telling us not to run next to the pool. Perhaps you’re a parent yourself now and find that you’re often calling out the same warning. It is probably the most important piece of safety advice though – tread carefully on the pool deck and save the speed and gymnastics for when you’re in the water.
Be careful if you want to dive
Unless you’re an experienced swimmer/ diver, you should only dive under the supervision of someone who knows what they’re doing. You also shouldn’t try diving into a busy municipal pool.
Be picky about water quality
There are standards that need to be maintained at public pools in order to keep them in a healthy and hygienic state. As a pool user, you would do well to be strict on this matter. If the water is not as clear as it should be, tell a lifeguard or other official. Cloudy water is an indication that there is either too much chlorine in the water, or not enough.
From the facility manager’s point of view, most national, state/provincial or municipal regulators have set very specific guidelines for chlorine levels. The American National Standard for Water Quality in Public Pools and Spas, representative of most pool quality standards, has set the recommended concentration of Free Available Chlorine (FAC) in public pools is 2-4 parts per million (ppm). This is actually identical to the recommended amount for drinking water, so as to ensure safety if pool water is accidentally swallowed. This is an interesting fact because there is a general perception that pool water has far more chlorine than drinking water. We’re not advising you to go and drink the pool water, but should you swallow some in a well-managed and monitored pool, know that you are completely safe.
Stay well-hydrated before and during your swim
Good hydration is important in all areas of life and this is as true in the swimming pool as elsewhere. Drinking plenty of water throughout the swim prevents dehydration, which, ironically, is quite a risk when you spend a long period in the pool. Drinking plenty of water well beforehand, also helps to clear toxins out of your system which you may otherwise carry into the pool with you.
Keep your mouth closed in the water
In well-maintained pools, it’s relatively safe to swallow small amounts of water because it is sanitized with well-regulated quantities of chlorine. Whether the pool is well managed or not, however, it’s safer to avoid swallowing much water. Too much chlorine could be toxic and too little chlorine could reduce the hygiene standards of the water.
Know the safety standards
The Lifesaving Society of Canada, like those in other countries and regions, has published detailed guidelines regarding pool safety. You don’t need to memorize these guidelines but it is useful to have some knowledge of them so that you can do a layman’s assessment of safety standards at any pool that you and your family might visit. Here are some of the most important points to keep in mind.
- Lifeguard-bather ratio – In a pool of 400sqm or less, the ratio should be one lifeguard per 0-40 bathers. That means that 80 bathers would need two lifeguards. If bather numbers increase to beyond 80, to between 81 and 140, then one additional lifeguard is needed. If the numbers are between 141 and 200, then a total of four lifeguards are needed.
- Emergency and operating procedures – These should be clearly written and posted around the pool for all users to consult as and when necessary.
- Emergency telephone – At least one phone should, at all times, be easily accessible from the pool deck.
- Water clarity – The standard is measured as follows: a black disc of 150mm in diameter on a white background must be located at the bottom of the pool and must be clearly visible from a marked point on the deck nine meters away. If that disc is not visible, the entire pool area should be closed.
- Lighting levels – The lighting level for indoor and outdoor pools must be maintained at minimum of 200 lux over the entire water surface, at all times.
- Breath-holding – repetitive and prolonged underwater breath-holding is not allowed in public pools except under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
Much of what you should be doing around and in the pool comes down to common sense. Be considerate to other users and be conscious of your own safety and hygiene, and you will have hours of safe fun at your local pool.
Swimming pools are a topic that OpenAire knows a lot about. Take a look at our aquatic portfolio to see some of the public swimming pool projects we’ve been involved with. One of them may be in your area.