Risk Management Tidbits for Your Aquatic Fitness Program
We all know that our goals as aquatic fitness professionals are to be leaders and advocates for the health and wellbeing of our participants. Often, we focus on how we can make our teaching better. Keep in mind, since the health and safety of all our participants is our top priority, regular training and education for CPR, first aid, and emergency preparedness are crucial. As such, we are going to discuss a few risk management topics that should be at the top of your thinking each time you step on the pool deck to teach.
1. Emergency and Crisis Readiness
The pool and aquatic environment is one of the highest risk environments in many facilities. According to the CDC, nearly 10 people die from unintentional drownings every day, two being children under the age of 14. Drowning is ranked fifth among the leading cause of death in children under the age of 4. In addition to children, about 37 percent of U.S. adults can’t swim farther than the length of a standard pool, according to a 1994 study by the CDC, and about 56% of adults can pass a standard water competency swim test according to the American Red Cross. These statistics are shocking.
According to the CDC, cardiac arrest is the leading cause of out-of-hospital death among adults over the age of 40, with 9 out of 10 victims dying. A victim's chance of survival decreases by 10% every minute CPR is not given. According to the American Heart Association, about 250,000 Americans die each year of sudden cardiac arrest and 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before they reach the hospital. The American Heart Association has identified four steps that can increase the chances that a victim will make it to the hospital alive. Each step makes up a link in the “chain of survival”, which includes early access to medical care (calling 9-1-1); early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); early defibrillation; and early advanced medical care.
The more you are prepared to act and respond in an aquatic emergency, the safer our community will be and the more lives that can be saved. As an aquatic fitness instructor, be sure that you stay up to date on your certifications (CPR/AED and First Aid) and consider getting a Lifeguard or Basic Water Rescue Certification as well. In addition, you want to be sure that you know your facility’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and what your role would be in an emergency at your facility. It is also recommended that you attend regular in-services where these skills and responses are routinely practiced.
2. Safe Environment
As mentioned, the pool can be a high-risk environment. Prevention of accidents and injury is key. You have a role in this risk management by identifying potential hazards for your participants. You can help your facility by being additional eyes and ears for a safe environment. Some areas of concern in the pool could be (but not limited to): water and air temperature irregularities and quality concerns; conditions of the pool bottom surface; the potential slip, trip or fall on the pool deck; unsafe or inoperable equipment (e.g. a broken rail on a ladder or accessibility lift that is not working); and poor lighting. If you find a dangerous situation, respond immediate per your EAP and be sure to document all occurrences per your facilities reporting standards.
Ensure your teaching environment is safe as well. As you learned in your instructor certification training, focus your teaching skills on low or no impact techniques. In addition, consider the use of some teaching aids like a non-slip deck mat and a microphone to protect yourself and your voice from injury. Wear breathable clothing when you teach on deck, and a sturdy shoe that will support your activity level. Finally, always make sure you are staying hydrated, and encouraging your class to stay hydrated as well.
3. Health Risk Considerations
In recent years, health clubs have gained popularity as the importance of exercise to general health and fitness has been emphasized. These facilities cater to a wide range of people of all ages and fitness levels. While the physical activity engaged in at health clubs is generally beneficial to a person’s health, overexertion or exercising improperly can lead to injury or emergency medical situations that require immediate care.
As instructors in it vital that we know what to do if someone collapses in front of us, and how to respond in an emergency in our facility. In fact, some people believe that, to be prepared for medical emergencies, health clubs should be required to implement an emergency services plan, have staff who are certified in first-aid and CPR training, and have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site. We also must remember that our safety is just as important for our participants. Safety and prevention should always be top of mind as instructors.
Lindsay Mondick is the Senior Manager of Aquatics for YMCA of the USA and an AEA Training Specialist. In her role at the YMCA national office, she provides thought leadership and strategy to the growth and development of the aquatics program specialty area for the YMCA movement in the United States.