Access to the pool and the pool hall

Pool Covers

Various types of pool cover are available, including simple hand-operated roller systems, automatically deployed covers, rising floors and decks and air-supported domes. Where pool covers are used as the primary means of preventing bathers’ access (e.g. in some open-air pools which cannot be locked up after hours), the covers must be of a type which can be secured continuously around the edges. They must be capable of supporting the weight of any person walking or falling onto them and they should also be resistant to vandalism.

Pool operators will need to ensure that their employees are not at risk from hazardous manual handling when dealing with this type of equipment.

Pool covers should be checked regularly on both sides for algal/mould growth and indicators of microbiological contamination and cleaned as necessary with 10mg/l chlorinated water.

Pool covers for spa pools should comply with British Standard ‘BS 6920 Suitability of non-metallic products for use in contact with water intended for human consumption with regard to their effect on the quality of the water’ because of the risk of colonisation by legionella bacteria. Swimming pools, whilst not a recognised source of legionella bacteria, should ideally be fitted with pool covers that comply with the same standard.

The bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa has been identified as a reason for microbiological contamination of swimming pool water due to colonisation of the swimming pool cover.

Circulation in ‘wet’ areas and around the pool

Abrupt changes in floor level, including steps, should be avoided in ‘wet’ areas wherever possible, including changing rooms, shower areas, toilets and on the pool surround.

Access to the pool hall from changing rooms or pre-swim shower areas should present the bather with water less than 1.2 m in depth. Other features which affect design, such as the location of access stairs to water slides, should avoid the possibility of bathers queuing near deeper water without a protective barrier. Ramps may be provided to give people with disabilities easier access to the pool. If a ramp is provided in a main pool, it should not protrude into the bathing/swimming area.

Where a freeboard rises substantially above 380 mm, consideration should be given to the need for a protective barrier at the pool edge.

The pool surrounds and other circulation areas should be designed so as to ensure the free flow of bathers and the avoidance of congestion. A minimum surround width of 2 m is recommended, but it may be possible for a narrower width to be used safely in some circumstances. The required width should be determined by reference to:

  • how the pool will be used - for instance, whether it will be used for training or competition;
  • where people will circulate, taking into consideration entry/exit from changing areas and the pool tank, queues for water features, fire escapes and any other areas where there is the potential for congestion.

In addition, pool operators need to consider what the maximum number of bathers using the pool surround is likely to be at any one time; this should also take into account use by people in wheelchairs.

Access to the pool tank

Access to a pool tank may be provided by built-in steps or ladders according to the type of pool. These should provide easy and safe entry to, and exit from, the water. Fewer entry points may be needed where the pool edge is of deck-level type since many bathers find it easier to enter and leave this type of pool directly from the poolside.

Entry steps and ladders should not interfere with the use of the pool for competition or training and should be recessed so as not to disrupt or endanger swimmers. The most appropriate arrangements for access are suggested as follows:

  • for main pools, by means of a recessed ladder at each end of the pool tank in each side wall, approximately 1 m from the pool tank end wall. Additional steps at the mid-point of the tank could also be considered;
  • for learner pools, by means of steps running along part of the pool. In irregular-shaped pools these can be designed to follow the shape of the tank. Intermediate handrails should be provided;
  • for leisure pools with high freeboards, recessed steps allowing entry and exit from all water areas should normally be located not more than 15 m apart;
  • for splashdown pools, the exit steps should be at the opposite end to the slide exit point.

Design of steps and ladders

Handrails, steps and ladders providing access to the pool:

  • must be of sufficient strength and firmly fixed to the surround and tank walls;
  • should be designed to ensure that finger, limb and head traps are not created, either between the treads or the tank walls, or between the grab-rails and the tank walls;
  • should be designed with their likely user in mind. Steps providing access to learner pools or shallow water should have a shallow riser (between 150 mm and 160 mm) and be wide enough (300 mm minimum) to allow easy use by children or an adult carrying a child. The leading edge of each step should be colour-contrasted for increased visibility from both in and out of the water;
  • should have treads which are slip-resistant and have no sharp edges;
  • should be designed giving consideration to the ease of access to and exit from the pool by users with restricted mobility or those with disabilities.

Design of ramps

Ramps providing access to the pool:

  • should have a gradient that does not exceed 1 in 15;
  • should have a clear width of 1 m;
  • should have a slip-resistant surface;
  • should have handrails on both sides of the ramp;
  • should have sufficient space at the bottom and top of the ramp for manoeuvring a wheelchair;
  • should not, if provided in a main pool, protrude into the competitive area.

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