Keeping Your Pool Area Safe
At the start of the swimming season, it’s good practice to review your hotel property’s swimming pool rules and safety standards. While your guests enjoy the pool, make sure you avoid potential liability and stay compliant with local, state, and federal law. In Texas, swimming pools that are open to hotel guests are known as “public” swimming pools. Note that certain cities or counties may have additional requirements.
Here are some tips to minimize and prevent pool and spa-related injuries, as well as information on what Texas law requires:
Fencing. Texas law requires that all public swimming pool yards are enclosed to prevent unsupervised children from entering the pool yard. For an outdoor pool, this means that the hotel must ensure access to the pool is controlled by fencing and gates at least 48 inches high. Gates may not be left propped open. Additionally, any openings in the fencing must be narrow enough conform to specific requirements found in the Health and Safety Code. These opening requirements vary by the type of construction of the fencing, and THLA can help guide you on what is appropriate for your property.
Lifeguards. Usually, no lifeguard is required in a hotel pool if there is no diving board, and if the property posts the proper signage indicating that no lifeguard is on duty (THLA can advise you on what signs your property needs). Note that if your property has a special active water attraction such as a water slide or lazy river, the property is required to have a lifeguard on duty while that attraction is open to guests.
Post the proper signs. Your pool must post required signage. This includes the maximum number of users allowed in the pool and/or spa, no glass containers, location of emergency phone and phone instructions, spa signs, “no lifeguard on duty” signs, and pool rules. Contact THLA for specific signage information, or visit the “Member Resources” section ot THLA’s website: https://texaslodging.com/member-resources.
Post your pool’s rules. THLA has a sample list of pool rules online under the “Member Resources” section of THLA’s website, located at https://texaslodging.com/member-resources.
Emergency phones. Texas law requires a phone accessible within 200 feet of the pool that can directly connect to an emergency service provider, such as 911. This phone must be lighted.
Pool lifts. Federal ADA law requires hotels to have a means of access to their pools, usually through a pool lift. Ensure your pool lift is affixed to your pool deck, in operation at all hours the pool is open, and available without assistance from hotel staff. It is crucial for all lodging properties to ensure the staff is trained on basic lift maintenance and operation.
Furthermore, as many lifts are battery-powered, it is essential to ensure the lift’s batteries contain ample charge for operation. Additionally, under the ADA, a pool lift may not be covered unless a disabled guest would be able to remove the lift cover without assistance from hotel staff.
Drain Covers. Be sure your pools and spas have drain covers that comply with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGBA). As of December 19, 2008, all operating public pools and spas must have drain covers that meet the ANSI/ASME A112.19.8-2007 standard on every drain/grate. In addition, if the pool has a single main drain (other than an unblockable drain), the operator must either disable the drain or install a second anti-entrapment device or system. This can take the form of an automatic shut-off system, gravity drainage system, Safety Vacuum Release System (SVRS) or suction-limiting vent system.
A pool may have more than one single main drain. If a pool has dual or multiple main drains more than 3 feet apart, it may be exempt from this second requirement. Pools and spas with single main drains that are unblockable are also exempt from this requirement. More info can be found here: https://www.poolsafely.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Pool-Safely-FAQ.pdf.
Pool heaters. Pool heaters are inspected and permitted as “boilers” by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). If you pool has a heater, be sure to keep your most recent boiler inspection report and boiler permit on hand in the event of inspection by a TLDR inspector or a local government inspector. TDLR can provide specific information related to your boiler permit: Call TDLR at (800) 722-7843.
Additional advice to reduce liability:
- Inspect the pool area daily and conduct safety checks at least three times a day, or according to your local pool regulations. Correct any unsafe conditions immediately.
- Ensure you keep accurate logs and records of the (at least) three daily inspections as well as tests for chemical conditions in the pool and spa. Be sure to of course follow the sanitation equipment manufacturer’s requirements for proper chemical levels.
- Train and educate all employees who work in and around the pool on hazards and safety precautions.