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Public spa pools

Issued: 7 September 2006

Purpose

To alert obligation holders to the risk of entrapment and other hazards associated with spa pools.

Persons that may have an obligation related to spa pools at the workplace include:

  • employers, self-employed persons or persons conducting a business and undertaking
  • persons in control of workplaces, or relevant workplace areas and persons in control of fixtures, fittings or plant in relevant workplace areas
  • designers, manufactures, suppliers, erectors or installers of plant
  • workers

Obligations

Obligation holders may have obligations to ensure the health and safety of:

  • themselves
  • workers
  • other persons, e.g. members of the public

Background

On 10 December 2001 a member of the public became entrapped underwater when her hair was caught in the inlet pipe at the base of a resort spa. By the time the victim, a 14 year old girl, was freed she was unconscious and not breathing. The young girl was taken to hospital and died four days later.

Cause of incident

A combination of design and operational deficiencies jointly elevated the risk of hair entanglement within the pump suction piping system.

The suction pipe flow velocities in the pipe and at the pipe covers were higher than prescribed by AS 2610.1. This excessive suction pipe flow velocity increased the level of turbulence within the pipes which increased hair entanglement.

A swimmer's eye goggle piece was discovered behind the suction point cover of one of the pipes, contributing to the increase in suction through the other pipe.

Management of risk

To prevent tragic incidents such as the one outlined above employers and other obligation holders should:

  • ensure water velocities, outlet systems, outlet point covers and drain covers comply with AS 1926.3
  • measure pipe flow velocities immediately after installation and at regular intervals
  • advise users against the practice of placing one's head below the water
  • regularly check for obstructions of pipes
  • consider suction cover design in regards to how it effects flow velocity and hair entanglement
  • install an emergency stop switch controlling all spa pool pumps, blowers and heaters, which shall be provided within 3.0 m of the spa pool, visible at all times and clearly identified. As specified in AS 2610.1

The above actions should be conducted by competent persons such as trained workers, maintenance contractors or other competent persons.

It is also recommended that the following issues be managed in accordance with AS 2610.1:

  • Depth markings
  • Points of entry and exit
  • Surfaces, edges and protrusions
  • Signage
  • Safety Rules

Legislative Requirements

Persons may owe an obligation in more than one capacity. It is recommended that obligation holders refer to the Act to establish their obligations in relation to spa pools.

The Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace Code of Practice 2013 (PDF, 1.04 MB) gives advice to obligation holders in relation to managing the risks associated with plant. Spa pools and components of spa pools may be regarded as plant.

Further information

Information about Spa pools and swimming pools is available from the following Australian Standards:

AS 2610 Spa pools AS 1926 Swimming Pool Safety AS 3861 Spa Baths AS 3979 Hydrotherapy pools

These standards are available from SAI Global.