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The Big Swim - Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

We've started an exciting new project to help you get ready for the summer. It's called "The Big Swim". We have chosen two of our viewers along with one of our contributors (Louise Lennox) and, with the help of former Olympic Swimmers and qualified swimming instructors, we are going to help them achieve their goal of learning how to swim!

Tomorrow, the second edition of Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines will be launched thanks to the co-operation of three leading National Bodies; IWS, Swim Ireland and ILAM.

Irish Water Safety is a voluntary/statutory body responsible for the promotion of water safety in Ireland. Swim Ireland is the governing body of swimming and the aquatic disciplines in Ireland. The Institute of Leisure & Amenity Management (ILAM) is the professional body representing the leisure sector in Ireland.

In 2007 the first edition of the Water Safety Guidelines were published to act as a guide to the Irish leisure sector with guidelines and procedures that were in some cases best practice but were used as minimum operating standards for managers of swimming pools and facilities with pools.
This original publication was pulled together by members of the Irish Water Safety body and also ILAM. It was hoped to become a resource for pool managers and operators and was hoped that it would assist them to ensure the safety of themselves, their employees and pool users alike.

The second edition of Swimming Pool Safety Guidelines has been made possible thanks to the co-operation of three leading National Bodies, concerned with safety in swimming, lifesaving, and pool management. Jointly the three organisations have a desire for increased use of all available swimming pool facilities within the industry to the highest standards, thus benefiting all users of these facilities. We are confident that the revised publication will provide the leisure pool industry with guidelines and procedures that encompass rules of best practice drawn from many sources at national and international level. The adoption of these "Guidelines" by pool operators, managers, pool lifeguards and other employees will ensure a safe environment for both young and old within a pool safe environment.

NB: It is important that swimming pool operators, both public and private, accept that the document does not replace the responsibility to have a Safety Statement prepared based on written and recorded Risk Assessments. However, our joint determination is that this publication will become the standard reference and an important source of information when dealing with the responsibility, management and supervisory duties associated with swimming pools, ensuring the safety of all users of such facilities.

Kilian Fisher, CEO of ILAM

1. Can you briefly outline the idea behind launching the second edition of the pools safety guidelines?

It had been recognized for some time that revisions were needed to reflect lessons learned over the last few years plus further drowning and near-drowning in pools. Prior to 2007 ILAM had adopted UK HSC (Health & Safety commission) Guidelines and had always felt that it was essential to have Irish guidelines linked to Irish Legislation and the situations in Irish pools, for example the large number of hotel based Pools in Ireland which are also open as local membership clubs.

. The collaborative project - with all three organizations concerned about ensuring that we could help support the industry
. Thriving industry
. Swimming - most popular activity according to Irish sports council figures
. Minimum standards - as organizations we aim to be working to best practice however recognize the constraints on facilities especially at the moment - this document highlights the absolute minimum that facilities should be putting these in place.
. Stay ahead of an ever changing environment

Who was involved with writing them?

A working group was set up involving all 3 Organisations:

. Kilian Fisher CEO, Barbara Claxton (Marketing & Development manager) and Iain Foulger (board member and manager Shannon Oaks Country Club) from ILAM.

. Lt Cmdr John Leach CEO, Brendan Mc Grath (IWS commission member), Michael Murphy (Child Protection), Roger Sweeney (Marketing officer from IWS- Irish Water safety).

. Charlotte Parker (Director of Education), Kate Hills (Child Protection officer) and Clare Mc Grath (President from Swim Ireland).

2. What are the main changes between the first edition and the second edition of the guidelines?

Comprehensive chapter on child protection and Garda Vetting; More comprehensive and clearer guidelines on safety during programmed activities such as clubs, swimming teaching , schools usage, etc; Clearer recommendations on pool supervision in all situations; use of "must" and "should"

The significant differences between the Old and New guidelines are as follows:

. Three leading organizations developed these in partnership

. Child welfare is at the core of the document and is dealt with throughout in a variety of sections and in a variety of ways.

. New structure of the document

. New layout of the document - more vibrant and linked to the aquatics

. More user friendly advice and guidance on how to use the guidelines for managers

. The document has placed responsibility on everyone to ensure and check that all of our pools and facilities and users are operating to the highest of standards.

. More detail and emphasis on the Risk Assessment and how to carry this out across different areas of operating a facility, this includes a risk assessment from a child welfare perspective.

. A revision on best practice across all key areas of pool operations including the following:

. Lifeguarding elements and what is required including the addition of vetting.

. Teaching and Coaching has developed considerably over the last 5 years in Ireland there is a new revised section including best practice around teaching and coaching roles, qualifications, the role of level one teachers, the introduction of CPD and licensing in the industry (a 2010 initiative by Swim Ireland) and working conditions.

. Modernized approaches such as the operation of cameras and surveillance and the need for guidelines around these new ways of life. The issue of mobile phones within a facility is also addressed.

. The equipment and the use of equipment has extended to cover more popular items

. Conditions of hiring facilities a guide to people that will be hiring

3. Why was it necessary to re-write them when the first edition was introduced in 2007, has there been that many changes at pools in such a short space of time?

Points 1 and 3 above really answer this one. A decision had been made though, to review the guidelines before the drowning in Navan but lessons from this and elsewhere was taken into account.

4. What do these guidelines mean for the public who are using the pools?

. Safer

. Vigilant - recognize quality teaching and coaching qualifications being issued by the relevant NGB

. Recognize the White Flag centres as a mark of Quality standards

. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the use of relevant qualified individuals on poolside etc.

. NGB clubs and facilities are best practice organizations

What is the white flag award?

The White Flag Awards recognise those who have reached very high quality standards in this industry. As a code of practice, it provides detailed guidance on how to ensure quality management systems are robust and continuously assessed and improved. The only sure measure/ sign for users is that the swimming pool/leisure centre holds the ILAM White Flag award which is the only Irish Leisure Industry Quality standard. 87 facilities currently hold this award most of whom have swimming pools. Facilities are currently applying for 2010 awards.

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