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Pool & Spa Safety in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) works to ensure healthy swimming is made possible for all the people of the Commonwealth. VDH's Environmental Health Services is responsible for permitting and inspecting tourist establishment swimming pools such as hotels, water parks and theme parks as well as some public pools based on locality. From the very beginning, VDH is involved by taking an active role in ensuring the safe design and construction of swimming pools and spas. Once the pool is up and ready for a dip, a VDH Health Inspector conducts a pre-opening inspection and at least one during the peak season. Depending on the type of establishment, the inspection frequency may increase to once a month. Each inspection checks various areas of pool safety to in order to ensure that swimmers' health is top priority while enjoying a favorite pastime.

VDH inspections are a small snapshot of the pool safety that establishments must maintain for the entire open season of a public pool. It's up to the pool operator's responsibility to ensure that daily precautions are taken while VDH ensures compliance through routine inspections. Some of the most important things VDH looks for in public pool inspections include:

  • Usage of only approved water sources- ones deemed safe & free of sewage or waste water
  • Cleanliness of the pool shell and the surrounding surfaces
  • Sufficient number of ladders and an adequate gated area around the pool
  • Good lighting both inside and around the pool
  • Proper depth marking on the pools edge
  • Adequate circulation of pool water and clarity of water color
  • Clean, operational filters- free of hair & scum!
  • Working filter room with sufficient and properly operating equipment to manage pool
  • Testing of pH levels (7.2-7.8) and Chlorine residuals ( < 3.0 ppm)
    • Properly maintained logs and public posting of pool water quality results
  • Lifeguard present during all hours of operation or "No Lifeguard" signage visible to guests
    • Proper life saving equipment available
  • General cleanliness and absence of safety hazards for all public swimmers

Additionally, in some localities, VDH offers training for public pool operators to help establish proper safety standards for all pools and spas in the Commonwealth. Pool operators should call their local health department to find classes closest to them.

Pool safety doesn't end there! There are some things you can do to make sure pool and spas are safe for not only you and your family but for every person that swims after you!

  • Look- Smell- Check
    • Look: Make sure you can see the bottom of the pool- cloudiness is both gross and increases the likelihood of drowning for young swimmers!
    • Smell: Make sure there are no strong chemical smells- that's not a sign of proper chlorination but rather a sign of contamination
    • Check: Ask to see the water quality results posted at every public pool
  • Shower before you enter the pool or spa
  • Wear water specific attire & make sure it is free of dirt or residue
  • Ensure pool toys and flotation devices are cleaned before and after use
  • Avoid getting in the water if you have diarrhea
  • Don't pee or poop in the pool or spa
  • Report all incidences to pool staff immediately for proper handling
  • Make sure children take potty breaks and check swim diapers at least once an hour
  • Don't swallow the water
  • Practice pool safety
    • Wear sunscreen & reapply regularly
    • Stay hydrated and wait to swim after consuming large meals
    • Don't run around the pool's slippery sides or dive in shallow waters
    • Watch small children closely and ensure there are lifeguards present
    • Have children take swimming lessons and wear adequate flotation equipment
    • Learn CPR to help save a life!

Some additional information on pool safety:

Share, educate and inform everyone you know on how they can keep themselves and others safe while at public pools!


Last Updated: 05-26-2015

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