One of the major challenges with keeping pools safe and healthy is the need for hazardous materials to be on-site, manly chlorine and acid. This creates two major concerns. The first is the need to store these materials, the second is making sure operators handle them properly.
The amount of hazardous material that is allowed to be stored on site in unrated space is not enough to provide for the needs of most natatoriums. For the most part, the Uniformed Building Code, International Building Code and the BOCA agree that most natatoriums are considered A-3 occupancy. This distinction changes in institutional settings and health care facilities. The adjacent mechanical spaces are required to have a 1 hour fire separation. All three codes provide for the storage of “hazardous materials” within controlled areas. The problem is that many facilities have more than one body of water. Therefore, the exempt amount does not provide for an adequate supply of chemicals. An H-2 or H-3 occupancy rating does allow for larger quantities of chemical to be stored. However an H-2 occupancy does not provide for the storage of calcium hypochlorite. An H-3 rating becomes costly because it requires a 3 hour fire separation. The codes to provide for this in the design of the storage rooms are classified as an M-type occupancy. Not only does this occupancy provide for the storage of larger qualities of chemicals, the required fire separation is diminished from a 3 hour rating to a 2 hour rating. The code goes so far as to eliminate the need for separation if the area is less than 1,000 square feet. By classifying a storage area as an M-Class space, a whole series of mechanical issues that could arise in dealing with H-Class occupancies are eliminated. Outside access for chemical storage rooms may minimize critical review concerns by the fire department and code officials.
When it comes to the handling of chemicals, the first step to keeping things safe is to ensure all chemicals are properly labeled and all MSDS are readily available. The other key factor is ensuring that anyone handling these chemicals is wearing the appropriate protective gear. Basic protective gear would include chemical rated gloves, goggles, boots, and an apron. Operators should also consider using ventilation masks or respirators when dealing with chemicals that put off hazardous vapors and fumes. The National Swimming Pool Foundation recommends the following protective measures:
- Keep personal protective equipment (PPE) clean
- Use PPE whenever dealing with hazardous materials
- Use respirator when airborne chemical dust or mist may be present
- Develop work practices to minimize accidental contact with pool chemicals
- Provide means of ready access to water (i.e. eye wash station)
- Post the numbers for local emergency responders
- Consider appropriate first aid and coordinate with local first responders
- Keep safety equipment tin a separate location from the stored chemicals
We all love pools and want to make them safe for patrons and guest, but we also need to make sure we keep our operators safe. Proper storing and handling of hazardous materials is just one basic step operators can take to keep themselves safe.