January 17, 2012
Matthew D. Griffith, M.S., RCRSP
Georgia Institute of Technology
It is well-known that educating guests is vital to their safety and an important component of a risk management plan. What isn’t as clear for many facility operators is what the most important information to get across is. It is not atypical for swimmers to be overwhelmed with signage listing a dozen or more pool rules when visiting an aquatic facility. This is unfortunate because most people only spend a few seconds reading signs. The result is poor communication of potentially important information. Therefore, pool rules and regulations should be placed into one of three categories: MUST know, SHOULD know, and NICE to know information. The information guests MUST know is information which could lead to catastrophic injury or death.
Within this category, there are four warnings that apply universally to almost all aquatic facilities. These are the four most important warnings to sign and enforce because if left unaddressed, they can lead to catastrophic accidents resulting in death or paralysis.
January 17, 2012
Drowning in Massachusetts Pool
Aquatics and Risk Management Coordinator
University of Waterloo
With the news coverage of a woman’s body being discovered in a Massachusetts pool, apparently three days after she went missing, a great deal of attention is being focused on the lifeguards and what they may or may not have done that contributed to this bizarre series of events that led to the tragedy of the mother of five losing her life. The incident involves Marie Joseph who went swimming on a hot Sunday afternoon with neighbours, had a collision with the 9-year old neighbour at the bottom of a slide and never resurfaced. It involves allegations of lifeguards ignoring information about the missing woman and neighbours assuming she left the pool. It involves inspections on two days by two Health Inspectors on the days her body was assumed to be at the bottom of the pool, of a permit being issued by the Inspectors to a pool too cloudy to see the bottom in the four foot shallow end or at the 12 foot deep end.
December 08, 2011
Can a coach safely do double duty?
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
University of Western Ontario
It sounded like a watermelon hitting the sidewalk. I knew something was wrong before I even looked up. I was on deck in a supervisory role during a diving practice. The Coach was working with his athletes and there was a Lifeguard guarding the pool as well. I remember being at the lifeguard station tidying up and hearing usual pool sounds including the sound of divers rebounding off the end of the springboards. Then — thunk. I began to move towards the diving boards and saw the Coach in the water and the Lifeguard en route. As I approached the scene for a brief moment I was fuming — wondering why the Coach in the water before the Lifeguard. But then I realized the Coach was in the water because it was his athlete he was supervising, and he knew all too well the sound of a diver in trouble.
Lifeguards use all of their senses while on duty — we observe directly with our eyes, use our hearing to listen for the unusual, employ our sense of smell when people decide to toss eucalyptus (or urinate) onto sauna rocks, and our sense of touch when moving across an uneven or slippery pool deck before entering the water to perform a rescue. Following an emergency situation or rescue it is not uncommon for a Lifeguard to vividly remember a specific sight, or smell, or sound — forever. That memory becomes embedded in your brain and gets tucked away for future reference. The diving Coach knew that sound and the Lifeguard did not, but certainly does now.
September 28, 2011
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
The University of Western Ontario
Lifeguards are social creatures. Pool decks are warm. Guards are often lulled by the mellow sounds of swimmers rhythmically making their way from one end of the pool to another. Types of swims vary as do the number of swimmers in the pool. The pool deck can be exciting. It can also be considered boring at times. These things combined may lead to situations where lifeguards gravitate towards each other and end up guarding side by side.
The term often used for this type of guarding is “buddy guarding” – although if you ask most aquatic supervisors what they would call it you would probably hear them let out an exasperated cry. It is definitely not something that is taught in lifeguard certification courses, yet most supervisors will tell you they have had to deal with it on at least one occasion — and that is an understatement. Even facilities with the best training, the most comprehensive policy and procedures manual, and the most hands-on aquatic supervisors can experience the buddy guarding phenomenon.