Pool Chemical Safety – Essential Information for Your Entire Aquatics Team

Pool chemicals are dangerous. Chemical spills, inadvertent mixing, splash back and fumes increase risk exposure at every facility. Those risks only grow as more pool personnel have access to chemical storage areas. From front-line staff to management personnel, it’s essential that everyone understands pump room risk and how to keep themselves safe when dealing with pool chemicals.

 

Safe Storage

Your prime directive in storing chemicals? Keep them separated – both from each other, and from people. Keeping chemicals separate from each other may seem simplistic, but in crowded pump rooms mistakes are often made. Here are some basic rules for your entire team to follow.

High and Dry – Pool chemicals should be off the ground. Cross contamination from spills and leaks becomes much more likely when chemicals are on the ground. The easiest solution? Use pallets to store chemicals above ground-level.

Avoid Stacking – Getting chemicals off the ground is important, but storing them too high is also an issue. Stack only in reasonable quantities and only with one chemical to a stack. Avoid shelving units where storing multiple chemical types becomes more likely.

Color Code – Lay out a storage plan for your pump room by chemical type, then color code each area to correspond with chemical labeling. Storing dry acid on a pallet? Consider spray painting that pallet red. Storing chlorine in a drum? Use yellow duct tape to clearly identify that you’re storing a halogen. These color codes correspond with your test kits color coding. Follow their lead.

Double Contain – If you’re storing liquids, consider what would happen if their containment devices leak or overflow (often caused by backflow from connected equipment). Double-containment options are simplistic and easy to install. They protect from accidental mixing, and chemicals leaking down to lower levels of your building.

Lock Them Up – Keeping your chemicals away from people is just as important as keeping your chemicals away from each other. Make sure your pump room is always locked to prevent unauthorized access.

Reduce the Supply – All of this becomes much easier when you reduce the amount of chemicals (both in type and in quantity) that you’re storing in your pump room. If you haven’t used it in 60 days, it’s not worth storing.

Safe Handling

Storing chemicals safely is a great start. Reduce your risk further by following some basic rules on how to handle chemicals.

Never Mix – Mixing pool chemicals is tremendously dangerous. It’s that simple. Some mixtures create deadly gases, others can result in explosions or fires. Make sure everyone on your team knows never to mix pool chemicals under any circumstances.

Diluting – If you’re going to dilute a chemical, do so safely by adding the chemical to water, never the other way around. Following that rule helps reduce the risk of splash-back and the potential for poor reactions. Always follow dilution instructions on chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheets.

Measuring – Do you have great measurement devices in your pump room to properly dose your chemicals? Beyond making operations more efficient and cost-effective, dedicated measuring devices offer a safer way to handle chemicals. Continue your color coding (see above) by purchasing color coded scoops, buckets and scales that will help your team avoid accidental cross-contamination.

Personal Protective Equipment – Every chemical Safety Data Sheet notes personal protective equipment. Make sure your team has the required PPE they need to handle their chemicals safely. Gloves, aprons, eye protection and respirators are much more likely to be warn when they’re in good condition and readily available. Regularly check and replace your personal protective equipment and be sure to audit your team and mandate strict usage of PPE.

 

Staff Training

You’ve organized your pump room, you know how to handle the chemicals the right way, now make sure your staff follows accordingly. Consider hosting an in-service and highlighting the following.

Safety Data Sheets – Start with the basics. Safety Data Sheets (often referred to as SDS, or MSDS) are mandated by OSHA, and the goal is not just that you store these documents, but that you use them to train your crew. Take the time in an in-service to discuss the chemicals you use, their inherent dangers and how to use them safely.

Discuss Authorization – Reduce the risk of untrained personnel making a mistake by limiting who is involved in chemical dosing.  Set the standard at your in-service that chemical operations are closely controlled and that staff members should only be participating in the process when authorized by a supervisor.

Planning for an Emergency – Accidents happen, even in the best pump rooms. Devise an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for chemical incidents and train your team accordingly. Consider partnering and cross training with local first responders in your area. Knowledge will be shared and they’ll have a better understanding of your facility layout, access and chemicals if they ever need to respond to an emergency at your pool.