Pool and Spa Safety at Home
Swimming is an excellent way to stay fit and keep healthy. Your swimming pool or spa can be lots of fun for you, your family and your friends. Unfortunately, swimming pools and spas can lead to illness, injuries and even death when health and safety is not taken into consideration.
It is important to maintain your pool to protect swimmers from harmful bacteria and avoid potential injuries. Make safety a priority by setting up and following pool rules.
Setting up Your Pool - Installation and Equipment
Installing Your Swimming Pool or Spa
- A permit must be obtained from the City of Toronto before pool or spa construction begins
- Pool and spa installation must comply with Municipal By-Law
- Hire a reputable company to install your pool or spa
- Underwater lights must be installed by a certified electrician. Electric outlets within the pool enclosure must have ground fault circuit interrupters to prevent accidental electrocution.
- Install above ground and inflatable pools according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Enclosures and Safeguards
- All pools and spas must be enclosed by a fence equipped with a self closing gate that is capable of locking.
- The enclosure must have four sides. Wall is not considered a part of the fencing under the municipal code if it allows access to the pool enclosure.
- The height of the fencing must meet the municipal code requirements.
- The gate must be locked when the pool or spa is not in use.
- Additional safety features can be outfitted for three sided enclosures if the forth side is part of the side of the house. Juliet fencing, isolation fencing and access alarms can be installed.
- Adults should always supervise their children. Mechanical and electrical safety provisions (motion detectors and safety immersion wrist alarms) do not replace adult supervision.
- Always remove the ladder on an above-ground pool when the pool is not in use.
- All chemical containers must be labeled.
- Make sure chemicals are kept out of reach of children.
- Store chemicals separately in a cool, dry, and well ventilated room that can be locked.
- Follow label directions carefully.
- Never mix any two chemicals together.
- Never add chemicals when bathers are in the pool.
- Always add chemicals to water – never add water to chemicals.
- Never smoke around chemicals.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling chemicals.
- Lifesaving equipment must be easily accessible on-site.
- Buoyant throw aids must be attached to a rope, and the rope must be as long as the length of the pool.
- Do not allow the misuse of lifesaving equipment.
- Lifejackets or personal floatation devices should be available for inexperienced or weak swimmers.
- Keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency.
- Toronto Public Health recommends using a landline phone because it can help emergency services to confirm the location of the pool.
- The person(s) supervising should be aware of the location of the phone.
- Keep a list of emergency contacts together with the address of the pool next to the phone.
- If a cell phone is being used, make sure the battery is charged and clearly identify the location of the pool to the operator.
First Aid Kit
- A fully stocked first aid kit should be available near the pool or spa.
- The first aid kit should include a pair of scissors and a CPR mask.
- The person(s) supervising should know the location of the first aid kit and be trained in first aid and CPR.
- Visit the Life Saving Society website to find out about first aid and CPR
Keeping the Water Clean and Safe for Swimming
Your pool or spa chemistry must be balanced to avoid transmission of water-borne diseases. You must test the water chemistry before using the pool or spa to ensure the water is balanced.
- Pool water should have a minimum free available chlorine or bromine concentration of 2.0 ppm.
- Spa water should have a free available chlorine or bromine concentration between 5.0 - 10 ppm.
- The pH for a pool or spa should be maintained between 7.2 - 7.8.
- Do not use a pool or spa if the water is not clear.
- The bottom of the pool should be clearly visible at the deepest end.
- Toronto Public Health recommends that a 150mm (6 inch) diameter black disc on a white background be used to check the water clarity.
- The black disc should be placed at the deepest point of the pool and it should be clearly visible from anywhere on the pool deck.
- The bottom of the spa should be clearly visible when the jets are off.
- Provide lighting when the pool or spa is being used after dusk or at night.
Drains and Covers
- Check all drains and outlet covers and make sure they are secure and in good condition.
- Do not use a pool or spa if any of the drains and outlet covers are loose, damaged or missing.
- The force from the suction of a broken drain can trap long hair and body parts leading to injury or death.
- Keep children away from main drain(s) and outlet(s).
Disposing Pool Water
- It is illegal to dispose pool or spa water directly into the storm sewer system as chemicals in pool and spa water are harmful to the environment.
- Visit Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 681, Sewers (PDF) for more information on how to properly dispose of pool or spa water or contact Toronto Water by calling 3-1-1.
Rules for Swimmers
- Remove the cover completely when the pool is in use.
- Store the cover away from the pool area.
- Evacuate the pool or spa during an emergency (e.g. lightning storms or power outage).
- Never allow glass containers within the pool enclosure.
- Do not allow diving.
- Always enter the pool or spa feet first.
- Encourage walking and prohibit running in the pool area.
- Teach children not to drink pool water because pool water has chemicals that may cause illness if swallowed
- Designate a qualified person to supervise when the pool or spa is in use.
- The person supervising must not leave the area while bathers are in the pool or spa.
- Never leave children unattended.
- For children under the age of five, the ratio of supervisors to children should be one to one.
- Keep inexperienced or weak swimmers within arm's reach.
- Keep children away from main drain(s) and outlet(s).
- Lifejackets or inflatable toys are not a substitute for supervision
- Toronto Public Health recommends showering before using a pool or spa.
- Showering reduces the amount of contaminants entering the pool or spa water.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or changing a diaper.
- Children should take regular bathroom breaks in order to avoid accidents.
- Encourage bathers to attend swimming lessons.
- Never swim alone, always swim with a friend.
- Be aware of guests who are inexperienced or weak swimmers.
- Ask inexperienced or weak swimmers to bring and wear their own lifejacket.
- Using floating toys
- Do not leave toys in the pool or spa.
- Toys can stop you from seeing a bather who is in trouble underwater.
- Toys can attract children to water causing them to fall in accidentally.
- Do not use inflatable toys as floatation devices.
Hot tubs and spas have special considerations. It's important to:
- Cover and lock the spa when it is not in use.
- Do not allow underwater play in a spa.
- Avoid contact with the drain and suction outlets.
- Drain and refill a spa after heavy use.
Entering and Exiting the Spa
- Enter and exit a spa slowly to prevent slipping.
- Use the handrail and steps when entering and exiting the spa.
- Avoid entering the spa when the jets are on.
- Discourage boisterous play in and around a spa.
- Post sign(s) such as NO DIVING and SPA RULES to help encourage safe behaviour.
Over-exposure to Heat
- Over-exposure to heat for a prolonged period can result in fainting or drowning.
- Spa temperature should be maintained at a maximum of 40°C (104°F).
- Check the water temperature before using the spa.
- To cool down, exit from the spa water every 10–15 minutes.
- Drink water regularly to rehydrate.
- Do not allow intoxicated bathers into the spa.
- Pregnant women or those with medical conditions should consult a doctor before using a spa.
- Children under 12 years should not be allowed in a spa.
- Bather's experiencing diarrhea should avoid using the spa.