Judge calls for uniform pool standards

A young boy’s drowning death at an Olds pool three years ago has prompted a judicial recommendation for provincial pool standards, a fatality inquiry report released on Thursday says.

A young boy’s drowning death at an Olds pool three years ago has prompted a judicial recommendation for provincial pool standards, a fatality inquiry report released on Thursday says.

Provincial court Judge Bruce Millar recommends that seven procedures be implemented to prevent a similar death to that suffered by Jordan Neave, eight, of Carstairs at the Olds Aquatic Centre in May 2006.

The fatality inquiry was held last spring and adjourned for a final day last fall in Didsbury.

Millar recommends a comprehensive government review of pool regulations.

Neave could not swim and was wearing a life-jacket, but he removed it when he went down a water slide.

Millar suggests better lifeguard scanning training, and standards for swimming ability and life-jacket use.

Minimum swimming pool safety standards need to be implemented across Alberta so no one else drowns in a public pool, Jordan’s grieving mother told the inquiry.

Jeanette Neave told Miller at the inquiry that if another lifeguard had been on duty the day her son drowned, he might be alive today.

“My son was a wonderful boy. We’ll never see him grow up to be a handsome young man and a husband,” Neave said.

Jordan, a poor swimmer, took his own life-jacket to the pool along with his nine-year-old brother but took it off because pool policy indicated no life-jackets could be worn on the slide because of safety concerns.

The brothers were accompanied by their grandfather, who didn’t go in the pool.

Testimony from two lifeguards on duty that day indicated neither of them saw the boy on the slide or in the water just before he drowned.

One of the lifeguards was patrolling the pool deck while the other performed other duties away from the pool.

At the time, the pool required one lifeguard to be on deck when 50 persons were in the pool, toddler’s pool and hot tub.

Olds did a review of its operations after the incident and changed its ratio to one lifeguard for a maximum of 35 patrons and brought in new rules requiring suspected weak swimmers to swim a length to show lifeguards they were capable before being allowed in the deep end.

The standard ratio in Canada is one lifeguard for up to 75 swimmers.

Millar recommends that in order to ensure the supervision of young children, public swimming pools should adopt a provincial admission standard based on swimming ability and age.

The judge also recommends that lifeguard scanning training should be enhanced and that all “responsible persons” are certified with the Lifesaving Society Aquatic Management Training certification or equivalent training.

Millar also says operational and supervision standards for the safe use of swimming pool mats, inflatable toys and life-jackets should be established.

He also recommends that the completion of the Lifesaving Society Comprehensive Aquatic Safety Audit be promoted.

The audit is designed to maximize the safety of participants utilizing public pools. It identifies what steps might be taken to minimize the risk of drowning or serious water-related injuries in aquatic facilities.

“To enhance safety, the owner/operators should be encouraged to undergo a Lifesaving Society comprehensive safety audit.

“Such an audit would have identified that one lifeguard during a family swim at the OAC (Olds Aquatic Centre) was insufficient,” Millar said.

Barbara Kusyanto, chief administrative officer with the Lifeguard Society of Alberta and the N.W.T., testified the problem won’t be solved by dictating lifeguard numbers.

Instead, she said a program called Swim to Survive should be implemented by schools to ensure that young children learn the basics of water safety.

The goal of a fatality inquiry is to establish the circumstances of a death. They are not intended to assign blame but the judge is allowed to make recommendations on the prevention of similar deaths.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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