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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Into The Water

By: Trevor Sherwood
Tel: 732-451-1040
Email Mr. Sherwood

View Profile on

Is your pool putting your patrons in harm way? When getting your pool ready for the upcoming summer season, you need to make sure your pool meets state requirements for safety and operation. Since New Jersey has one of the thorough bathing codes in the nation and outbreaks of recreational water illnesses are occurring every year, everyone needs to be sure that their pool is up to code for a safe swimming season.

Before you even open the pool, you want to make sure all your permits, licenses and certifications are valid. You should apply for your pool permit with your city or township in March or early April. You want to beat the May rush and make sure you have a permit to open. If your facility requires a Certified Pool Operator® and/or lifeguards, you want to make sure those certifications are valid and displayed at your pool. You also want to schedule your pre-season health department inspection by Mat 1st. If you call your local health department in late May, you may not be able to get an inspection in time for your hopes of a Memorial Day opening. Also, you need to make sure your Electrical Bonding and Grounding certificate is valid. This certification is valid for 5 years and a must for all pools. The township electrical inspection occurs annually.

Additional paperwork that needs to be in place before you even considering getting your pool ready for the season is your aquatic supervision plan, record keeping book and MSDS sheets. In New Jersey, commercial or public pools are required to have an aquatic supervision plan. The plan must be kept onsite and contain, at a minimum the following: facility diagram, evacuation plan, lifeguard schedule and duties, employee responsibilities, emergency contact numbers, location of safety equipment and emergency procedures. The recording keeping book needs to include water testing results, sanitary surveys, daily number of bathers, your above mentioned licenses and certifications, accident reports and inspections logs. MSDS sheets are Material Safety and Data Sheets for any chemicals you have on site. Typically, you are to be provided one free copy with the purchase of any chemical. You can also get additional copies from the internet. You should keep one copy near the chemical and one copy in an office which is accessible, but away from the chemical in case of an emergency.

Now that all your paperwork is in place, you are now ready to make sure your pool and necessary equipment are ready for the season. Items that need to be posted at your site, in addition to the abovementioned certifications and MSDS sheets, include emergency phone and phone numbers, signage and depth markings. You want to post your emergency phone numbers and facility address above a working phone. Your address is necessary to be posted due to the popularity of cell phones. If a call is made to an emergency provider from a cell phone, they will not be able to determine your location through a cell call. Required signage includes a pool rules sign that has all the rules as specified by the New Jersey State Bathing Code, four no diving signs, a caution chemical sign and no smoking sign inside you chemical room, and depth markings. With your depth markings, they need to be on your pool deck and tiling and feet and inches need to be spelled out and not abbreviated. For staff administering chemicals, you need to have goggles, gloves and a chemical mask.

Safety equipment is a must at all pools. This following is what the New State Bathing Code states as required, but when it comes to the safety of your patrons and staff any additional safety equipment is always welcome. The following is needed at all pools: an approved first aid kit that contains more items than the typical 24 unit first aid kit; 1 rescue tube per lifeguard or 2 ring buoys for pools that do not need lifeguards; a backboard, head immobilizer and 4 straps and 2 Sheppard's hooks and reaching poles (non-telescoping type). A safety rope with floats separating the shallow and deep ends of the pool is recommended by industry standard.

For sanitary concerns at your pool, you need a thermometer, DPD test kit, skimmer net and a flow meter. The maximum allowable temperature for any body of water is 104 degrees, and should not be exceeded. All pools are required to have a working flow meter on their filtration system to ensure your pool is meeting the state turnover rate of eight hours. The flow meter should be placed after the filter and installed on a straight length of pipe. The state of New Jersey requires a DPD test kit to test pool water, as other types of test kits do not show the free, available and combined levels of chlorine, which are required to be logged in your records as per the code. Additional testing requirements, which are to be done every two hours, include pH, cyanuric acid, bather load, water clarity, temperature and weather. You are also required to have a state laboratory perform bacteriological water tests every week. With the advent of recreational water illnesses on the rise, this is something every pool should do whether it is required or not. A major issue that has made headlines in the pool industry and public news alike is entrapment issues. Entrapment occurs when a person is entrapped to the vacuum flow as created by the pump. Individuals can become entrapped on any suction component of the pool, such as main drains, vacuum lines or skimming lines, either by way of hair, limb, body, evisceration or mechanical entrapment. At this time in New Jersey, pools are required to have an antivortex cover to prevent against entrapment issues. Additional requirements may need to be met based upon the number of drains and skimmers your pool has.

In December 2007, after a highly publicized entrapment event, federal regulation was passed know as the Virginia Graeme Baker Safety Act. By December 2008, any pool and/or spa, whether it has single or multiple drains, needs new anti-entrapment drain covers that must comply with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8 performance standard, which are currently in development. Any public pool or spa that has a single drain must have at least one additional level of entrapment protection as stated per the law. Entrapment is a cause of drowning that can be prevented through these new measures.

At your pool, you need to make safety a top priority. By following state laws, federal regulations and using common sense, you can ensure a safe and fun season for all who use your pool.

You can access the New Jersey State Bathing Code and inspection checklist at

Trevor A. Sherwood II has extensive experience in the swimming pool industry, with over 20 years of experience in service, consulting, training and education, code regulations, development and expert witness. He has contributed to aquatic textbooks and related articles, influenced State Recreational Bathing Codes and national conference presentations. He has provided leadership to such organizations as National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA), Community Association Institute - New Jersey Chapter (CAI), New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA), New Jersey Parks and Recreation Society (NJPRS), Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Society (PRPS) and New Jersey and Massachusetts Health Departments. He has been retained by attorneys for both Plaintiff and Defense.

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