Swimming pool operators must comply with their general duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the associated regulations. Operators must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks to workers and users to help decide what they must do to make their pool safe. This is known as risk assessment. The law does not state what safety measures an operator must put in place. Such judgements must be made by each operator, based on the particular risks in their pool. More information on the law, your duties as a swimming pool operator and conducting a risk assessment are detailed in: Managing health and safety in swimming pools.
Managing health and safety in swimming pools has been produced to help pool operators comply with health and safety law. Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. The guidance is meant for swimming pools used by the public but also covers segregated areas of rivers, lakes, the sea and other non-standard swimming facilities. It applies anywhere swimming is actively encouraged. However, it does not apply to swimming in open water (eg a lake or pond), which is not maintained as a swimming facility. The guidance may also apply to paddling pools, depending on the particular circumstances. See: Swimming pools FAQs for further information.
Please note, a review of Managing health and safety in swimming pools by HSE, in collaboration with key stakeholders, is currently planned.
The Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group (PWTAG) produce detailed guidance on swimming pool water quality and treatment. HSE recognises their guidance as a useful resource for pool operators when drawing up their operating procedures. Enforcing authorities (HSE and local authorities) consider this guidance as the standard to be achieved in effectively managed swimming pools.
There should be documented procedures for the use of the test kits and other test equipment, and operators should be given full training in their use for monitoring pool water quality. The documented procedures should detail actions that operators should take if there are unexpected test results, especially if they show the pool water chemical composition is either below or exceeding safe limits. Ph Water Technologies can offer specialist training and our two day course is very popular with local authorities, hotels, clubs and caravan parks. This course will be carried out on site and therefore site specific to suit the operation and also fulfil management’s obligation under the Health and safety at Work Act 1974 to provide employees with suitable information, instruction and training.
Where disinfection and pH are not monitored and controlled automatically by the water treatment plant, manual testing should be carried out, using commercially available test kits and the appropriate tablets. The frequency of chemical testing should be determined by the risk assessment, but recommended test intervals are:
- Before the pool opens
- Every two hours while it is open
- After it closes.
Automatic control is preferable: free chlorine and pH are maintained at prescribed levels. But manual checks of free and combined chlorine and pH in the pool are still necessary. Where their results are satisfactory and stable, testing three times a day may be sufficient – at the start, midway and at the end of each day. But automatic control does not monitor combined chlorine; to ensure adequate control of chloramines, chemical testing may need to be more frequent.
- Free chlorine levels
- Combined chlorine levels
- pH value
- Calcium hardness
- Dissolved solids
- Balanced water
- The Langelier index is a formula that brings together all these factors.
Tests should be performed monthly to monitor the presence of microorganisms. Tests should also be done:
- Before a pool is used for the first time
- Before it is put back into use, after having been shut down for repairs
- If there are difficulties with the treatment system
- If contamination has been noted
- As part of any investigation into possible adverse effects on bathers’ health.
More frequent sampling will be necessary if there is a problem, or for particularly heavily loaded pools. Hydrotherapy pools, even those not in a healthcare setting, should be tested weekly.
Balance tanks should be inspected annually and cleaned as necessary and we would advise that these are done on a six monthly basis as a minimum.