Why we need Safe Pool Operation guidelines

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The recent updates to Royal Life Saving’s Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation (GSPO) provided a timely opportunity to revisit the need for the guidelines. 

Whenever you visit a public pool or aquatic facility, you do so with the assumption that all due diligence has been met to ensure the health and safety of you and those you’re with. Staff too, need to know that their workplace is safe and that all hazards and risks have been minimised and contained.

But despite the best intentions from aquatic facility managers, the countless standards, differing state legislation and evolving industry best practice presented a complicated maze of requirements that resulted in a real danger that something would be missed.

So in 1996, Royal Life Saving created the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation, better known as the GSPO. They essentially sifted through all the standards, legislation and industry practice and presented the aquatics industry with a much simplified and easy-to-understand set of guidelines.

“The GSPO provides managers with the essentials for running a public pool or aquatic facility. It gives the minimum requirements and best operation practices in a voluntary guide to assist operators in satisfying their legislative duties and providing a high standard of care for visitors to their centre,” said Matthew Griffiths, National Manager Aquatic Industry Services for Royal Life Saving Society – Australia.

While simplified, the GSPO is still comprehensive and includes 92 guidelines that cover the seven sections of aquatic facility operation: General Operations, Technical Operations, First Aid, Facility Design, Supervision, Low Patronage Pools, and Programs.

The GSPO has been primarily designed for application in municipal owned public facilities. However, relates to all recreational, fitness or educational facilities which include aquatic activities.

“The GSPO clearly set out the requirements for a safe aquatic facility and are a must for managers of aquatic facilities but also contain invaluable information for local government, facility owners, architects, engineers, duty managers and pool lifeguards,” Griffiths said.

But it also needs to remain relevant. For that reason it is continually developed under the scrutiny of both Royal Life Saving and the aquatics industry, a process reflected in these recent changes.

To undertake the review, Royal Life Saving convened a National Working Party comprised of representatives from YMCA Australia, AUSTSWIM, Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA), and Swimming Australia Ltd. The aquatics industry was also invited to provide feedback prior to the commencement of the review and at the completion of each draft stage of the review prior to final publication.

The resulting guidelines reflect the current collective expertise of the broader aquatics industry to provide minimum standards and best practice advice for the safe operation of aquatic centres, swimming pools and learn-to-swim centres – exactly as they were designed to do.

Find out more about the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation (GSPO).