Loss Control Insights for Public Sector

Chemical Safety for Community Swimming Pools

girl on inflatable in pool

“Six family members taken to hospital after chemical incident at pool.”

“Chemical explosions rock local aquatic center. Two employees suffer injuries.”

“Local fire department evacuates neighborhood after chemical leak at community pool releases dangerous plume of chlorine gas.”

Every year, thousands of people visit emergency rooms because of accidents involving pool chemicals. While these chemicals are necessary to keep the water safe for swimming, it’s important to protect your employees and pool patrons by understanding how to safely use and store them.

Pool Chemicals: The Basics
Most pools disinfect water using chlorine-based products. These chemicals come in liquid, granular or tablet form and are very concentrated. Chlorine can be highly reactive when it comes in contact with other substances, so safe usage and storage is important to prevent a dangerous chemical reaction. Chemical reactions can generate a variety of hazards, including poisonous fumes, caustic liquids and even explosions.

Handling Chemicals
Any time you’re working with a chemical, you should read the product label and follow all directions. You can also check out the safety data sheet (SDS) for details on chemical dangers, possible reactivity concerns and instructions for safely cleaning up a spill.

While handling the chemical, protect yourself as directed by the product label. Wear goggles or glasses with side shields and chemical-resistant gloves. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area whenever you handle the chemicals, and avoid breathing in any dust or fumes.

Mix Carefully
When you’re ready to add chemicals to the water, you should always follow the package directions (are you noticing a trend here?). Open only one chemical at a time, and close the container before opening another. If you’re using a powdered chemical, make sure the wind is blowing away from you to avoid unintended inhalation or contact with your skin and eyes. Only pre-dissolve chemicals if the instructions specifically call for it, and make sure you always add the chemical to the pool water instead of the other way around (never add water to the chemical).

Instead of using the same scoop for all chemicals, make sure each chemical has a dedicated measuring cup or scoop. This helps prevent cross-contamination that could lead to a reaction. Don’t forget to make sure that your scoop is completely dry before returning it to a chemical container.

Safe Storage
Product labels will provide information about how to safely store individual chemicals, but here are some general guidelines.

Your storage area should be well-ventilated and secured to make sure only authorized employees have access. Children and animals especially should be kept away from stored chemicals. The area should be cool and away from sunlight, because UV light can degrade chemicals and cause them to be less stable. Make sure all chemical containers are in good condition (no cracks or leaks), and never reuse empty containers.

To avoid a gas release, keep dry chemicals dry. Any uncontrolled contact with liquid, such as rain drops, hose water or a ceiling leak, could cause a dangerous reaction.

Keep containers and bags off the floor, and never store liquids above dry chemicals. If the liquid container should spring a leak and come into contact with the dry chemicals below, you could have a major situation on your hands.

Ideally, you should store reactive chemicals in separate rooms. If that’s not possible, make sure they are stored with plenty of space in between them in a well-ventilated area. Here are some chemical combinations to avoid:

DANGEROUS COMBINATIONS

To avoid dangerous chemical reactions,
make sure you keep plenty of distance between these chemical pairs.
Liquid Chemicals and Dry Chemicals
Chlorine Products and Acids
Inorganic Chlorinating Agents
(calcium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite,
sodium hypochlorite)
and Organic Chlorinating Agents
(trichloroisocyanuric acid, potassium dichlorisocyanurate, sodium dichlorocyanurate)
Chlorine Products and Ammonia and Other Cleaning Products

Make sure employees don’t eat or drink in the chemical storage area. Sodas and other liquids can trigger a reaction, and accidental ingestion of chemicals would be dangerous for the employee.

In Case of an Accident
If a pool chemical is spilled, make sure you respond immediately. A delay of even a few minutes could be dangerous. Pool chemicals are corrosive and can cause burns, injure lungs or even be fatal.

Follow your emergency chemical spill response plan and the product’s SDS to safely clean up the spill. If the product comes in contact with eyes or skin, flush the areas with large amounts of water and call poison control or 911 for emergency assistance and medical treatment.

Find More Online
For more information, check out these resources.