Summer Water Safety Tips- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Summer Water Safety Tips for Outdoor Water Facility Owners & Operators

As temperatures rise and people head for the water to cool down, it's critical that owners and operators of outdoor water activities take proper steps to make it a fun and safe summer.

Drowning causes an estimated 4,000 deaths per year in the U.S., equaling an average of 11 drowning deaths per day. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 and the second-leading cause of unintentional injury death to children ages 5-14.

Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) understands the risks associated with owning and operating aquatic facilities. Read on for proven summer water safety tips as well as links to more in-depth resources.

General Outdoor Water Safety Tips

Whether your body of water is an outdoor pool, stream, fishing pond, or large lake, there are some basic water safety precautions you should follow:

1. Develop and post water safety rules
Post clear signage near your body of water stating who can use the water, when it can be used, and how to use it safely. For example, ensure water users know not to play games in the water that could put them or others at risk, such as underwater breath-holding competitions or diving. Review rules each year to make sure they are current, clearly visible, and enforced.

2. Share and explain water safety rules
Educate users on your water safety rules and requirements. This can be through a discussion or written listing users must read.

3. Obtain a signed waiver
Waivers should indicate users understand and assume the risk of using the water at your facility, that they will abide by your stated water safety rules, and that they indemnify you as the owner/operator. Remember that minors cannot sign on their own behalf.

4. Control access
Make sure access to your body of water is controlled, either through fencing, limited pathways, or other means. Swimming pool access should be controlled by personal supervision or a self-closing gate. According to the CDC, installing a four-sided fence separating a pool from a house or yard decreases a child's risk of drowning by 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.

5. Ensure supervision
Lifeguards should be provided if required by law or if that is the standard of care for that type of operation and body of water. Lifeguards need to be certified and appropriately supervised. If lifeguards are not provided, be sure to have some measure of supervision over your body of water, commensurate with the size, usage, and overall risk it poses.

6. Use a buddy system
For all aquatic activities, use a buddy system - restrict individuals from swimming alone. People with seizure disorders or other medical conditions should have one-on-one supervision when they are around water.

7. Plan for emergencies
Ensure that your emergency response plan is updated and that equipment is readily available and functioning. Conduct water safety drills so that all personnel know how to respond to emergencies and can do so if the need arises.

Slides, Inflatables, Climbing Walls, and other Aquatic Features

Aquatic centers, camps, and other swimming venues have greatly increased their usage of special water activity structures and features, such as water slides, inflatables, climbing walls, play structures, or splash pads.

All owners and operators of establishments with outdoor water activities should carefully review the risks and the appropriate controls before installing these types of water features.

Consider the following before installing special aquatic features:

  • Have you reviewed this proposed change to your operations with your insurance agent and carrier?
  • Do you have appropriate space, depth, and visual sightlines for the proposed structure?
  • Has the manufacturer followed American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) design standards, and do they provide clear instruction on installation?
  • Is your installer qualified to follow the manufacturer's instructions, and are proper contractor safeguards in place (certificates of insurance, being named as an additional insured, a thorough vetting process, etc.)?
  • Can you staff appropriately so that all water features are supervised with suitable numbers per the manufacturer's requirements?

Best practices for operating special aquatic features include:

  • Maintain the required staffing numbers and require all supervisory personnel be fully trained per the manufacturer's guidelines and local safety/health codes.
  • Each water feature must have written procedures on how it may and may not be used and the duties of the supervisory staff.
  • Rules for use of the water structure must be posted and enforced.
  • The swimming ability of the users of your water feature must be appropriate for the depth of the water and the increased risk posed by the water feature.
  • The water features must be thoroughly inspected before the beginning of the season and daily, per manufacturer guidelines. Inspections should be properly documented.
  • Emergency action procedures must include the special risks posed by the water feature. Personnel must be trained and drilled on these procedures.

Additional Resources

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC), which establishes best practices for public swimming pools and spas. The MAHC is intended to reduce the risk of health outbreaks, drownings, and injuries related to pool chemicals.

The MAHC addresses the design, construction, operation, maintenance, policies, and management of public aquatic sites to ensure water safety.

PHLY agents and policyholders can access more water risk management information, including other summer safety tips, by logging into your MyPHLY account and selecting Risk Management Services or contact us at to learn about our aquatic risk management resources.

IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your business, preventing workplace accidents, or complying with any safety related, or other, laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your business and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and company policies.

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