Safe supervision at the pool

July 1, 2015 — When it comes to pool supervision, the more eyes the better. All pool and swimming activities should have at least one attentive, certified lifeguard present. It is important that you consult your state licensing standards for guidance and to ensure compliance with pool or other water activities.

When it comes to pool supervision, the more eyes the better. All pool and swimming activities should have at least one attentive, certified lifeguard present. It is important that you consult your state licensing standards for guidance and to ensure compliance with pool or other water activities. To aid your efforts to watch over children from your center when they are engaged in aquatic activities, the following child-to-supervisor ratios are recommended (not including lifeguards):

  • 1:1 for ages 0 to 3
  • 4:1 for ages 3 to 5
  • 6:1 for age 5 and older

As outlined in Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards, 3rd Edition, Standard 1.1.1.5: Ratios and Supervision for Swimming, Wading, and Water Play, the circumstances surrounding drownings and water-related injuries of young children suggest that staffing requirements and environmental modifications may reduce the risk of this type of injury.  Essential elements include close continuous supervision, four-sided fencing and self-locking gates around all swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas, and special safety covers on pools when not in use.

Supervision plans need to also involve an appropriate emergency action response.  Emergency action response plans are designed to help speed your response to emergency situations, reduce injury severity, and mitigate damages associated with a catastrophic event and SAVE LIVES.

Managing Risk in Sport and Recreation: The Essential Guide for Loss Prevention outlines that emergency plans should be established and practiced as part of any swimming pool risk management plan. Consider the following questions:

  • Has an emergency plan been developed for all possible emergencies?
  • Are there designated persons who are charged with enacting the emergency plan?
  • Has a chain of command been established?
  • Is there a poolside telephone or other means of emergency communication available?
  • Are phone numbers of emergency agencies, key personnel, patrons’ emergency contact numbers, and others included as part of the emergency plan?

When the emergency plan is activated,

  • What is your system for quickly identifying members with little or no swimming ability?
  • Is the water evacuated of all people?
  • Are people evacuated to a safe location?
  • Are there other considerations for an emergency plan, such as supporting ratios of supervision?

Also, inspect all drains to be sure that they do not present a suction hazard. Beware of strangulation hazards presented by ropes/floats that separate the shallow and deep ends.