August 23, 2022
ORFA Certified Aquatic Technicians (CAT) understand the benefit of reducing contamination before it enters the pump room. Removing visible debris and trapping microscopic particles at the source has a high return on operational investment as water balancing and chemistry becomes more manageable. Properly treated water that is pumped through veins of the pool circulation system is key to a quality swimming experience. Only by having an operational plan that matches bather load can this be achieved.
Aquatic professionals will immediately refer to the requirement of Ontario Regulation 565: Public Pools as the required water filtration and treatment goal. Although an important part of aquatic facility operations, it is often used as an artificial target to measure frontline, supervisory, or administrative efficiency. My observation and commentary is that meeting the requirements of the regulation places the operation at the lowest point of compliance and safety. It provides little to no buffer for extreme operational issues that may occur without warning and result in an increase of health risk, pool contamination, equipment damage and/or facility closure.
The flexibility of the regulation specifically to the required designated pool operator as outlined in section 6, creates an opportunity for interpretation by the pool owner. Consider the following excerpt:
Operation 6. (1) Every owner of a public pool or public spa shall designate an operator. O. Reg. 494/17, s. 5. (2) Every operator shall be trained in public pool and public spa operation and maintenance, filtration systems, water chemistry and all relevant safety and emergency procedures. O. Reg. 494/17, s. 5.
At first read this excerpt appears straight forward - but in reality it is not!
Nowhere in the regulation does it suggest that the operator actually work in the pool. It would seem reasonable, but it is not defined. A Manager or Department head could appoint themselves to this responsibility, which then forces Public Health officials to directly communicate with their office.
The next requirement to be met is that the “operator shall be trained in public pool and public spa operation and maintenance, filtration systems, water chemistry and all relevant safety and emergency procedures”.
Successfully completing an introductory Certified Pool Operator course generates a certificate that meets the minimum requirement and hopefully the instructor has supplemented course material with Ontario specific legislation, will only ever be called into question should an incident or accident occur.
Aquatic professionals are most likely shaking their heads in disbelief that such statements would ever be spoken out loud. Fair enough, but consider how many pools are operated every day without properly trained technicians. The certified person works days and goes home when the facility is reaching full bather load, turning the operation over to a frontline staff member who may have other multiple duties and responsibilities.
To close these gaps, the ORFA recommends that the “designated operator” have and maintain a minimum Certified Aquatic Technician (CAT) professional designation that is supported with HVAC, maintenance planning ability, advanced health and safety and asset management training. The ORFA further recommends that the aquatic operation have a minimum CAT available for every scheduled operational hour that has users present to support the designated operator.
Comments and/or Questions may be directed to Terry Piche, CRFP, CIT and Technical Director, Ontario Recreation Facilities Association
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