I recently read about the news of a young man who drowned in a swimming pool operated by a popular hotel in the city of Abuja, Nigeria. What I still wonder about is how the event happened as enough details about how the incident happened were not provided. The only information was that the incident occurred during a party. Whatever the case, this is not the first time we have had an incident like this in Nigeria. It also brings to the fore the need for Hotels and other such tourist facilities to take the issue of health and safety more seriously for the sake of their numerous customers. The relevant authorities as well need to step up in their role as regulators and follow through with effective enforcement of health and safety regulations in all industries.
From the above mentioned incidence it may not be unlikely that there was no effective supervision of the swimming pool which led to the death of the young man. From a personal experience, I had entered a swimming pool to swim when a security guard came to ask me to come out of the pool. He politely told me that even though I could swim very well, he was not going to allow me to use the swimming pool because there were no lifeguards on ground. As a safety practitioner, I was impressed by this and I came out of the swimming pool. This is how it should be for all swimming pools.
To manage swimming pools safely, operators must note that all pools require some measure of supervision after doing a thorough risk assessment. Aside physical hazards attention must be given to those hazards relating to swimmers and swimming-related activities. One of the things to consider when pool operators assess the need for supervision is the way the pool is used and the characteristics of those who may use it.
Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools, a book by HSE, UK says: “In order to plan for safe procedures, pool operators will need to have an appreciation of the main hazards and risks to users. The book further states that the following hazards/risks have been factors in reported swimming pool related deaths or serious injuries:
• inadequate or inappropriate supervision;
• prior health problems (e.g. heart trouble, impaired hearing or sight, epilepsy);
• alcohol or food before swimming;
• youth and inexperience (half of those who drown are under the age of 15);
• weak or non-swimmers straying out of their depth;
• unauthorised access to pools intended to be out of use;
• diving into insufficient depth of water (leading to concussion, or injury to head or pine);
• unruly behaviour and misuse of equipment;
• unclear pool water, preventing casualties from being seen;
• absence of, or inadequate response by, lifeguards in an emergency.
Safe operation of pools generally requires the deployment of lifeguards. It
is the responsibility of the pool operator to ensure that they are sufficient in number, adequately trained, effectively organised and diligent in their duties.
This responsibility includes assessing whether hirers of pools have made effective and safe arrangements for supervision”.
With regards to training and how to rescue drowned casualties, Pool Operators in Nigeria need to ensure that their workers are also trained in First Aid and Basic Life Support so that they can be able to revive any who might have drowned. The popular practice I have seen around in Nigeria is that when some drowns, some helpers start compressing their stomach in an effort to force the water out or someone may carry the casualty on his shoulders like a fireman and starts running with the casualty to remove some water from his stomach. All of these are what I will refer to as “trial and errors”. Lifeguards must learn how to skillfully rescue a drowning casualty and also how to effectively resuscitate them. Swimming pool operators in Nigeria must wake up to their duty of care for the customers and workers.