Health Inspector: Friend or Foe? | Regulation Spotlight
violations are pH that is too high and then licensing problems. The county has licensing requirements for pool operators and lifeguards, who cannot work without a license. These violations may result in a summary closure of the pool. Of course any immediate hazard to health or safety forces us to suspend a pool's operating permit. In the last two years, nearly all of these have been due to loose or missing drain covers. How can these common violations be avoided? Pay attention! In Maryland, chlorine and pH must be checked hourly, so they should never be out of range. Regulations vary from place to place, but pool operators are responsible for knowing the requirements of the county they work in. This is essential, whether the pool is professionally managed or not. How many pool management companies have you worked with? We work with about a dozen pool management companies every summer. Each one manages anywhere from one to 50 facilities in the county. We have 280 pool sites, with about 450 main pools, wading pools and spas. Approximately 80 percent of our pools are professionally managed. From the perspective of health and safety, what are the benefits of working with a pool management company? Working with a management company can be easier than a self–managed pool in a few
GET TING ALONG BY BROOKS WEDEKING
Whether you dread a visit from the health inspector or look at it as a learning experience, there are some ways to forge a good working relationship. Brooks Wedeking, General Manager at American Pool, offers this advice.
It is the pool operator’s responsibility to work in coordination with their local health department to make sure that whatever facilities they are responsible for are 100 percent safe. With that in mind, it's impor-
12 Aquatic Leader Magazine SPRING 2013
different ways. The most efficient way to get spring inspections done is to have a management company representative schedule the inspections. The inspector and representative can then travel from pool to pool, doing inspections in one fell swoop. For self– managed facilities, each pool has to be scheduled with its respective manager. It's also easier to solve problems when I've developed a good working relationship with a pool management company. I can rely on these people to give me their perspective on equipment and management issues. I know all the regulations, but the only pool I've managed is in my backyard. We also have companies based outside of our region that are unfamiliar with local regulations. These pools can get up to speed quickly if one company is managing all of them. How do you handle the many federal, state and local mandates that have been established in recent years, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) and the local Automated External Defibrillator (AED) requirements? We've had a ton of new requirements thrown at us in just the last five years. One of my roles as the local pool official is an educational one. I want to be able to answer questions as they come in — not just refer people to a website or toll–free number. It is one thing for the federal government to hand down a law or regulation; it’s another for the local health department to implement it.
These federal requirements were, incidentally, another place where dealing with pool management companies often made my job easier. Companies with a lot of clients needed a staff member who was familiar with the new rules — and often learning the ins and outs along with me. This made addressing compliance problems at managed pools much more straightforward than at self–managed facilities. Based on your experience, how have these new regulations affected the average commercial pool owner? I think the average commercial pool owner may feel frustrated by these new requirements coming one after another. They may be legislatively unrelated to each other, but they all have the same target. The new regulations' immediate impact on pool owners is additional money and time. However, I think many owners see that these new rules result in genuine safety improvements. If you had to give one piece of advice to the average commercial pool owner as a health inspector, what would it be? I cannot give just one piece of advice, so here are two. First, be familiar with the regulations. There is an easy–to–read summary for pool operators on our website, www.aahealth.org. Next, if you have questions about anything related to your commercial pool, call your health inspector. Maintaining a good working relationship with your health inspector can help you solve problems quickly and stay in compliance.
tant to be prepared. When scheduling inspections, have the list of pools you need inspected on hand. Make sure that you are on time and ready for the inspection. And do a pre–inspection where you cover what you anticipate the inspector will be checking.
Unfortunately, there are many ways to get on the bad side of a health inspector. Being unprepared is a big one, along with being dishonest or argumentative. It’s important to be humble and keep your ego in check when dealing with a health inspector.
In your pre–inspection, verify flow with a dye test, make sure all safety equipment is present and in good shape, tighten all ladders and handrails and confirm that all necessary signage is posted. It’s also important to make sure that any client responsibilities (including landscaping and fencing) have been addressed prior to inspection.
On the other hand, if you communicate openly with your health inspector, the whole process can run smoothly. Respect their knowledge base and follow through on your commitments. Be thankful for any extensions you may receive, and be sure to get the required work done on time.