Aquatic Safety

Our aquatic operations assessment is based on aquatic industry guidelines and core safety philosophies. It builds a system for maintaining the highest level of aquatic safety in all aquatic venues. Our assessment process will analyze and evaluate current practices and lifeguard performance before setting a course for organizational improvement. Aquatic safety practices will be implemented to encourage organizational commitment and awareness along with monitoring strategies to ensure heightened vigilance.

Drowning Prevention – Our Philosophy

Drowning is one of the largest exposures for all organizations that provide aquatic programming and offer aquatic facilities to their patrons, especially those organizations serving large youth populations. Children are the victims in nearly half (1,500) of all drownings in the US each year according to the Centers for Disease Control. Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years with nearly half of those children drowning in guarded pools. In addition to drownings, five times as many children are victims of near-drowning incidents.

Organizations have the responsibility to ensure that all children in their care are both properly nurtured and safe. Drownings and near drownings can cause harm to individuals, staff, the organization and the community when they occur. Sound aquatic risk management programs include regular lifeguard in-service training, scanning and aquatic emergency drills, swim testing and color banding of all youth participants, proper ongoing supervision of lifeguards, proper parental supervision of children and appropriate safety equipment and maintenance.

Reviewed Prevention and Management Strategies

Policies – A thorough and comprehensive drowning prevention program must be in place in order to protect youth, families, staff, community and the organization itself. A comprehensive aquatics policy should be in effect that has been reviewed and adopted by the organization’s governing body. The organization should also prepare an Aquatic Safety Plan with the core information outlined in the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). The safety plan ensures that the aquatic operations are properly designed, managed and implemented for safe operations.

Training – Lifeguard certification itself cannot be considered sufficient training. New staff orientation and regular in-service training is necessary for all employed and volunteer aquatic staff. Training should focus on policies and procedures specific to the facility, rescue skills, victim recognition, vigilance capacity, emergency management, swimmer management. All skills, procedures and training should be reinforced by a regular program of drills.

Emergency Management – Aquatic emergencies are among the most critical emergency situations in recreational facilities as suffocation by drowning compounds all other causes and conditions. Staff action in emergency situations is critical and time is of the essence.  Every aquatic location must have a comprehensive site-specific emergency action plan (EAP) that clearly defines roles for each staff member.

Swimmer Management – The primary role of a lifeguard is to prevent drownings and the first rule in prevention of drownings is to pro-actively restrict non-swimmers and poor swimmers to shallow water. Many organizations are now swim testing and tracking all youth and teen swimmers, including all participants of outside groups like day camp, rental groups and birthday parties; with no exceptions. Other management techniques such as buddy systems, breath holding restrictions and the use of technologies can greatly enhance the aquatic safety practices of an organization.

Lifeguard Supervision – Lifeguard supervision is critical to the success of aquatic safety and the ongoing support of the Lifeguarding staff.

Parental Supervision – Parental supervision is critical to drowning prevention. Organizations should implement a policy requiring that children under a certain age (e.g.: 10 years) to be accompanied by a parent or guardian in the pool. Lifeguards are not babysitters and must be able to perform their primary duties for all participants.

Facilities and Management Practices – Facilities, when properly designed and maintained, can greatly enhance a lifeguard’s effectiveness. Lighting levels, air handling and filtration systems all can detract from a lifeguard’s ability to properly supervise a pool when they are not functioning at optimal levels.

Compliance – Aquatic operations should meet or exceed the current best practices and regulations of local, state and national regulatory bodies. Safe-Wise Consulting encourages organizations to comply with the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) or the location’s local/state regulations; whichever are more stringent. Aquatic facilities must also meet OSHA, NFPA and ADA regulations in addition to pool codes.

Current Trends – Acadia Risk Services stays informed on current issues and trends involving aquatic safety and drowning prevention. We analyze this information to keep you current and informed. Current information can assist organizations in staying ahead of the curve and preventing aquatic incidents thereby protecting youth and others from harm.