Are You Ready for a Lockdown of Your Aquatic facility?

The lockdown procedure is used to secure and protect your staff and patrons because there is threat such as a violent intruder or a serious environmental or physical threat in close proximity to the facility or when it may be dangerous to evacuate the building.
Many organizations already have lock-down procedures in place particularly facilities that are part of a college, university, school, are located nearby court facilities or are situated in neighborhoods where there is a history of violence. During a workplace risk assessments or on the advice of your Police Service, factors may be recognized that would merit the development and implementation of lockdown procedures. Sadly, any organization, anywhere, can be the target of violent events that may result in loss of life

Lockdown procedures alone will seldom be the only action that is required in response to an identified workplace risk. Health and Safety policies and procedures that could prevent incidents of workplace violence; together with security measures, physical barriers and staff training in conflict resolution and workplace violence should certainly be implemented in all workplace.

A lockdown of recreation facility in particular an Aquatic facility can be very difficult.
Recently built facilities are designed to be open environments with wide expanses glass walls, open public areas, viewing galleries, and open work space for program staff.
Your procedure needs to be tailored to your unique facility’s design and importantly all of your staff must know what to do when faced with this dangerously dramatic situation.

The objective of staff training is to provide personnel with a set of procedures to follow in the event that they have to hide and protect themselves and those who are participating in recreation programs. Clearly written protocols will provide a framework for staff to follow. Lockdown procedures ought to be site specific and incorporated into site emergency plans. These procedures must of course include a communication strategy to contact the police and emergency services and keep people safe while the situation is ongoing

There are generally three types of lockdowns:

1. Shelter-in-Place.
In the case of external hazard, where it is not possible or advisable to evacuate the building.

2. Hold and Secure
Used when a serious environmental or physical threat is present outside of the facility or in the neighbourhood and prevention measures are needed to protect individual(s) from leaving the facility, entering into an area of danger; or to prevent the threat from entering the facility.

3. Full Lockdown
Used when the threat is already in the facility and measures are needed to prevent the threat from accessing areas of the building to protect individuals; or to prevent others from entering into an area of danger.Type your paragraph here.

Your On-Deck Supervisor Needs Training

Are you aware that all Ontario employers must provide their workers and supervisors with “basic occupational health and safety awareness training” as of July 1st, 2014 or your organization will be in violation of the regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  To be clear the responsibility is on Employer, not Employee to ensure this training is completed. 

Be aware that your previous in-house safety awareness training probably will not meet the new requirements. There are two types of safety      awareness training: worker training and supervisor training, and the Ministry of Labour dictates the contents of both. Employers may choose  to use their own training materials, instead of the MOL’s materials.  However, the training program for workers must include instruction on the  MOL’s predetermined topics.

All workers and supervisors– even staff you would not consider to be doing anything hazardous, such as handling pool chemicals must be trained. All of your facility staff, lifeguards, instructors, and front desk staff would be considered workers.  All of your lead-hands, on-deck supervising staff, head Instructors/lifeguards,  shift supervisors or duty manager, would need to complete the “Supervisors Training” whether or not they are full time staff or part-time students. The good news is that the training is easily accessible to your staff by using the Ministry of Labour’s online “e-learning” modules, or group sessions with employees or individual.

Supervisors must be competent.  MOL “Supervisor’s Training” alone will not be sufficient; it must go hand- in-hand with your own training on your facility’s policies, procedures, and health and safety protocols. As legally defined under the Occupational Health and Safety Act a competent person is someone who is qualified because they have the knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its evaluate the performance of that work.

Organizations using contractors, Aquatic Fitness Instructor, Advanced Instructors, or Coaches should also be aware that contractors must also receive the safety awareness training and provide proof that they have.  You should revise all of your Contractor Agreements to include a clause requiring the contractor have completed the safety awareness training.Type your paragraph here.

Are You Fit to Guard?

As a Lifeguard while at work you are responsible to safeguard the lives of people in your care. Parents have entrusted you with their priceless children. Your co-workers expect you to be ready to protect them if they make that life endangering full contact rescue.  Your team will need you to assist in the desperate work to maintain the life of an injured or drowned victim. Have you come to work hungover, still stoned, are you injured, or ill?

As the aquatic supervisor[i], you are charged with keeping the pool safe and enjoyable for patrons. Today, your facility is very busy. You are exasperated because your lifeguard didn’t show up on-time.  So you made a call home, rousted them out of bed and said “get in here or else!”  When that lifeguard arrived they confess to a “huge hangover”.  Are you punishing them with grunt work on-top of their regular duties just to teach them a lesson? Will that be the lifeguard in the chair when an unconscious child is pulled to the surface by a patron?

A minimum level of fitness, on-the job skills and competencies are a requirement of a Lifeguard who is assigned to protect lives and provide a safe environment. This role places very specific demands on physical skills, knowledge and vigilance expected of a competent Lifeguard. “Fitness to work” must be part of pre-employment screening, regular and seasonal training. These job skills and competencies should be re-assessed on a regular and recurring basis, to ensure that he or she continues to possess those minimums[ii].  

Lifeguarding is a safety-sensitive job; where impaired performance, for whatever reason, could result in a significant event affecting the health or safety of co-workers, the public, property, or the environment[iii]. The job of lifeguarding requires an on-going, assessment of the individual’s present health and well-being and how it may affect his or her ability to safely perform their essential job functions.  

Work-place Health and Safety policies must include policies and procedures for unavoidable absences from work for illness and injury, and a clear return-to-work policy[iv] that ensures Lifeguards are “Rescue Ready” when they resume their duties following an injury or health event.  Alcohol, prescription drug and substance abuse policies, must be clear and all staff must be aware of the consequences for being impaired while on-the job and unable to perform their duties.

Physical and mental fitness is the responsibility of the individual lifeguard and the organization in this safety-sensitive job. Within the employer's Health and Safety program there must be clear action steps which are communicated to the entire aquatic staff, empowering supervisors to take appropriate action when a lifeguard arrives at work but is not fit to guard, for whatever reason. 

Lifeguards, next time you get up, to go to work after two hours of sleep, ask yourself “am I safe, are my co-workers safe, and will the kids in the water be safe?”

[i] Guide to the Supervisor Health and Safety Awareness in 5 Steps Ontario Ministry of Labour November 2013

[ii] International Life Saving Federation APPENDIX 10 Surf Lifeguard Regulation approved by the ILS, Board of Directors in 2013.

[iii] Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace A best practice of the Construction Owners Association of Alberta, Version 2 – Effective October 1, 2010  -ALCOHOL AND DRUG GUIDELINES.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes that it is a legitimate goal for employers to have a safe workplace.