For my remarkably busy friends, here’s the TLDR: take a minute today to review your daily, weekly, and monthly checklists for Model Aquatic Health Code compliance. It could be what saves your facility – and your guests – from a catastrophic incident. We’ve even helped get you started by sharing our own Weekly MAHC Inspection Checklist below!
If it’s not written down, did it really happen?
When I was a young professional back in the olden days before cell phones and text messages (you know. . .25 year ago), my team knew one of my number rules was, “If you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” Whether it was asking for time off, letting me know about a maintenance or staff issue, or just asking me to bring more testing supplies next time I came by, there was a possibility that I would forget before I even left the office.
More importantly, they also knew that the same guideline applied to daily tasks like chemical tests and walk-throughs: “If it’s not recorded, you didn’t do it” became our mantra. My original goal was to significantly change our departmental culture to one that focused less on getting a tan and more on prioritizing safety and accountability. It would be several years before I realized what an impact documentation would have on our overall risk management plan when we were called on to respond to litigation, and our thorough documentation kept me and my team from even being called for depositions.
But who determines what you should record?
The fact is that there is no single regulatory agency overseeing pools, splash pads, hot tubs and waterparks, and aquatic safety codes vary from state-to-state and even from city-to-city. This means that “industry standards” and “best practices” are often the best guide we have to create SOPs that keep our guests, team, and facilities safe. One of the best resources we have – and a reference often used by insurance companies and attorneys – is the Model Aquatic Health Code, or MAHC. Designed to help state and local governments and aquatics operators, the MAHC uses the latest knowledge based on science and best practices to create a code designed to prevent drowning, injury, and water-borne illnesses.
While the MAHC is an extremely comprehensive document, it does specifically address the types of things that operators should check daily to ensure safety at their facility. In addition to reminders about how often to record chemical tests (are you testing your water every 2-4 hours at every single aquatic facility INCLUDING splash pads as per MAHC 5.7.5?), it includes everything from checking reagent expiration dates to testing alarms and chemical feeders. Choosing not to check these items – or failing to record the results of those tests and any necessary remediations – puts your facility, your team, and your guests at risk.
Preparing for (someone else’s) catastrophic incident is key.
Every year we see incidents at pools and waterparks across the country (including a Shigella outbreak at a splash pad right here in my community). While tragic, catastrophic events resulting in injury or death should prompt us as professionals to take a step back, look at our written operating procedures, evaluate daily follow-through by frontline staff (both full- and part-time), and identify gaps which put our guests and our organizations, at risk.
Now is a wonderful time to do a quick review and cross-check of your current daily, weekly, and monthly checklists to make sure that you’ve included these industry standards in your walk throughs. Some things you might consider:
- Review the specific items on your checklists.
- Have you included key points from the MAHC?
- Did you address items required by your local or state health codes?
- Have you included items recommended by equipment manufacturers like slide testing or rescue equipment checks?
- How do you document what you find on your walk-throughs? A traditional paper checklist that your team completes is standard, platforms like HydroApps offer you the option to digitize your documentation. Consider if there are specific items which require a comment (like water quality) or even an attached image (like main drain visibility).
- If you find an issue during a walk-through, define the process of how your team will let you know. And no – “leave a sticky note on my desk” is not a solid risk management process!
- If you use a paper form, does everyone have access?
- If you use a central work order management system for your entire department, your full-time team may be the only ones who have access – what is the process for getting information from front-line team members to the appropriate person?
- How will you store this information so that it’s easily available to you for future reporting?
- When you resolve an issue from a checklist or walk-through, make sure you have a plan in place to record that remediation.
As the Counsilman-Hunsaker team was developing HydroApps, we relied on our combined decades of aquatics operations experience and the Model Aquatic Health Code to create MAHC-compliant checklists for daily, weekly, monthly and inspections. In fact, our MAHC-compliant checklists include specific code references and are part of what led to us becoming the first product certified by the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code. To help you start your own checklist audit, we’ve even attached our Daily MAHC Compliance Checklist at the end of this post!
And lastly, don’t forget to train your team to do a thorough walk-through and accurately complete a checklist. It feels like it should be common sense but let me share a story (you didn’t think we’d get through this blog without at least one story, did you?). One sunny afternoon during my first summer as an Aquatics Manager, my dad – a lifelong teacher and coach – took me for a picnic under a big tree in Jenny Lincoln Park to break up my workday. I was lamenting that my lifeguards NEVER got the bathrooms clean – I was constantly asking them to reclean or make a second pass. “Kirt, have you taught them how to clean the bathroom?” I scoffed – why would I have taught them to clean? They were certainly old enough to know how to thoroughly clean a bathroom! He laughed (and laughed, and laughed, and laughed in that way that he had) and told me it was my fault they weren’t cleaning. It was my responsibility to teach them – it was a mistake to ever assume that they knew anything. The next week we added “How to Clean a Toilet” and “Using a Squeegee” to our in-service agenda, and the bathrooms suddenly were sparkling clean!
Here’s the point – you must take the time to train your team to see the facility with a critical eye:
- Teach them to walk the facility and look from floor to ceiling.
- When they test ride the slide (how many times does the manufacturer or your local authority require that you do this daily), are they looking at the gutters in the catch pool when they get out?
- Do they walk in the changing room and close the door or move the shower curtain to see what’s lurking in the corner?
- Snap pics of things you see the indicate a problem is coming – leaking chemical feeder tubes or corrosion where it shouldn’t be – and share those images with your team so that they are constantly looking for anything outside of normal.
The bottom line is that now is the time to review and revise your current checklists and processes to make sure that you’re providing the safest venue possible for your community. You’re already doing splendid work – make sure that you have a plan in place to track your daily checklists as well as a plan to verify the work is being properly done!
If you have questions about where to start or would like more information on how HydroApps can help you digitize your documentation, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.