Pool owners have responsibility for the safety of its users, as well as anyone that may enter their property, whether invited or otherwise, who decide to use the pool. Safety precautions must be put in place and rules must be expressed by the owner in advance of using the pool. If as an owner you fail to do so and injury or death happens, you can be sued civilly, or prosecuted criminally for not operating your pool according to the law.
The Life Saving Society has a website with a checklist of guidelines for pool owners regarding the safety of pools. This checklist should be considered every year when your pool is opened. Here are some of the suggestions.
All areas of the pool are to be fenced in. The fencing should completely surround the pool to a minimum height of 5 feet. In the City of Toronto, the wall of the house is no longer considered the 4th fence and an actual fence must be placed in the yard so that children cannot access the pool from the house when the house door is left open or unlocked. Check that there are no holes in the fence, or gaps under it. Check for broken fencing with exposed steel or nails that may cause injury. Gates must be securely fasten and self-closing. Gates must be able to be locked when the pool is not in use.
Slip resistant decks should be considered, although they are not mandatory. You should ensure that there is never any running on the pool deck. There should be a sign around the pool and near the entrance area that entry is not permitted without permission. There should be rescue equipment available, in particular a first-aid kit and a reaching pole (shepherd hook) close at hand. You should have life jackets available for non-swimmers. You can also purchase devices which will set off an alarm when the water surface is broken and should be used when the pool is not being used.
Diving boards are not prohibited, but should you have a diving board, you should check that it is made of non-slip material and securely fasten to the deck. There is an obvious hazard when diving deep, and a not so obvious, but extreme hazard, when individuals dive long in pools that have a deep to shallow end. Divers should be warned of this danger. If there is to be no diving, signage should also indicate that there is NO DIVING and depending on pool type, should even be painted on the pool deck in shallow areas. Divers should not dive long or deep for risk of banging their head and breaking their neck.
If you have a slide, users should never go down head first. Only one person at a time should go down the slide. Users should wait for the area in the pool in front of the slide to be cleared before coming down the slide. Never jump into the pool from the top of the slide. Above ground pool ladders should be removable and removed when the pool is not in use.
Where there is a deep and shallow end, there should be a line above the water marking the transition area. Water clarity must be checked to ensure there is visibility to see the bottom of the pool. The water should be tested frequently for proper chemical balance and should be at the appropriate temperature. The chemicals should labeled and secured. Any pool chemicals should be stored in sealed containers away from any heat and not accessible to any individuals. The filter and water outlets should be checked regularly to ensure that their covers are secure and working properly.
It goes without saying, but must be emphasized that an adult must always be present supervising children while they are using the pool. This means direct supervision to provide immediate rescue if necessary. Also be sure that you have home insurance that is aware of your pool and that your pool is covered by proper insurance. Pools can provide hours of enjoyment during the summer, and if used properly, will be a source of joy for the whole family.