Swimming and Water Safety
Many of the steps taken to ensure the safety of program participants in skills development programs will also help ensure the safety of your staff and volunteers. For example, staff and volunteers should take into consideration the weather conditions and other potential safety hazards when determining whether an activity should be undertaken. Choosing an indoor activity over swimming in an outdoor pool during a thunderstorm helps keep both program participants, staff and volunteers safe.
Water Safety Tips
There are over a dozen federal and state agencies involved directly and indirectly with regulating swimming pools. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted standards regarding employee exposure to chlorine and blood borne pathogens and requiring eyewash stations, documented employee training, and personal protective and safety equipment. Hazards extend beyond the water to the deck area around the pool (electrical appliances and glass hazards) and into the locker rooms and showers (slip hazards and potential areas for sexual molestation). Risks for pool maintenance personnel include falls into unguarded pits in pump rooms, inhalation of powder and gas chlorine, and injuries from slip hazards.
The following tips are drawn from two sources: Camp Tips — Pool Aquatic Safety, developed by Markel Insurance Company and the American Red Cross, Health and Safety Tips-Water Safety Tips.
Make sure your staff and volunteers follow the general Water Safety Tips below to stay safe in, on, and around the water:
- Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone.
- Obey all rules and posted signs.
- Watch out for the “dangerous too’s” — too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Do not mix alcohol and swimming. Alcohol impairs your judgement, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
- Protect your skin: Sunlight contains two kinds of UV rays — UVA increases the risk of skin cancer, skin aging, and other skin diseases. UVB causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor containing a high rating at least 15.
- Drink plenty of water regularly and often even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them. They can make you feel good briefly but make the heat's effects on your body worse. This is especially true with beer, which dehydrates the body.
- Watch for signs of heat stroke: Heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red, and dry skin; changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. Call 9-1-1 or your local EMS number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep someone suffering from heatstroke lying down.
- Wear eye protection: Sunglasses are like sunscreen for your eyes and protect against damage that can occur from UV rays. Be sure to wear sunglasses with labels that indicate that they absorb at least 90 percent of UV sunlight.
- Wear foot protection: Keep in mind that your feet can get burned from the sand on a beach, or cut from glass in the sand.
- Watch the weather: Stay tuned to local weather conditions and prepare for electrical storms. Watch local news programs. Get out of the water as soon as you see or hear a storm.
- Test, record, and maintain appropriate water chemistry levels (pH, chlorine, etc.) in the pool using personal protective equipment.
Other safety concerns for staff and volunteers in skills-development programs are: