Safety practices for public swimming pools
Lifeguard dutiesThe duties of a lifeguard include monitoring the customers and the safety of the pool and auxiliary areas. In addition to water rescue, lifeguards must promote safety preventively by maintaining public order, instructing the customers, addressing risky behaviour and monitoring the condition of structures and the cleanliness of the public swimming pool. Lifeguards must be able to rescue people at the site where they work. It must be noted that first aid skills or health care training alone do not mean that the lifeguard has water rescue skills. During their supervision shift, lifeguards must not be assigned any tasks, such as selling tickets or taking care of a cafeteria, that would clearly hinder their ability to maintain safety.
Substituting Substituting for lifeguards for lifeguardsThe lifeguards’ statutory breaks during work must be arranged so that the level of monitoring remains sufficient. The best option for pool safety is to schedule the breaks outside peak hours. The actual lifeguard must be able to reach the pool area quickly in water rescue situations.
The employee substituting for the lifeguard during breaks must actually monitor the pool safety and be familiar with the risks, alarm systems and other safety practices of the site. The substitute must know where the actual lifeguard is during their break. The substitute’s clothing must clearly identify them as a lifeguard. The ideal option, with regard to safety, is that as many of the people working at the pool as possible are capable of acting appropriately in water rescue situations.
Camera surveillanceCamera surveillance in lifeguarding is primarily used to assist in the supervision of people using swimming pools. In hotels, small public swimming pools, pool areas of service centres, and other similar facilities, lifeguarding can be carried out via cameras. Requirements for camera surveillance eligibility include a small number and water surface area of pools, part-time operation, small number of visitors, and possibly also the lack of hazardous features, such as a diving tower or a water slide. It is important to ensure that a person with sufficient rescue skills for the site in question monitors the camera feed, and that their workstation is located close to the pool area.
The Consumer Safety Act does not apply to the activities offered by organisations for their members. The coaching activities of swimming clubs are not a consumer service, even if the coaching takes place outside the opening hours of a public swimming pool. In this case, the public swimming pool acts as the lessor of the space.
For water safety, it is good and even recommended that the lifeguards at the public swimming pool help the clubs in water rescue situations. However, no situations may occur in which swimming clubs would transfer the responsibility for rescue completely over to the public swimming pool, for example. Clubs organising activities at a public swimming pool should have sufficient water rescue capabilities. Especially during large training sessions, the monitoring of the customers at the public swimming pool could suffer if the attention of the lifeguards is too focused on the swimming club members, for example.
Other user groups In public swimming pools, school groups are comparable to consumers, whose safety is the responsibility of the public swimming pool.
If the facility is rented for private events, such as birthday parties, the Consumer Safety Act shall apply. In that case, too, the service is purchased for private consumption, meaning that the public swimming pool is responsible for ensuring that the birthday party has been organised safely.
External service providers
External service provider typically refers to entrepreneurs who lead sessions such as water aerobics or baby swimming, but who are not employed by the public swimming pool. External service providers are only responsible for the safety of the service they offer. If the public swimming pool rents the facilities for external business activities, the public swimming pool must ensure that the external service provider knows how to provide the service safely. The external party must have sufficient rescue skills for the site in question, or alternatively they can agree with the public swimming pool that the pool will organise the monitoring of safety. Making a written agreement on the security arrangements is recommended.
Further informationTukes Guide 1/2015 “Uimahallien ja kylpylöiden turvallisuuden edistäminen” on promoting the safety of swimming pools and spas.
Konsta Kulmala Senior Officer, Safety of Consumer Services, Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency, Yliopistonkatu 38, FI-33100 Tampere, Tel. +358 29 505 2097
Mervi Murtonen Senior Specialist, Safety of Consumer Services, Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency, Yliopistonkatu 38, FI-33100 Tampere , Tel. + 358 29 505 2080