If you’ve read the last Keeping Tabs post on takeaways from the NACCHO-Axiall “Looking for Trouble” survey, you’ve learned crucial information about what aquatic facility inspectors are looking for, the standards they adhere to and how to avoid some of the most common causes of pool shutdowns. But with even more recent data from the CDC on swimming pool outbreaks, as reported on NBC's Today Show, health inspectors are on high alert across the nation as the July 4th holiday weekend approaches.
But who exactly are these inspectors and what makes them qualified to determine whether your facility is compliant? Pool inspectors aren’t too different from pool operators when it comes to best practices for running commercial pools: Most aquatic facility auditors have experience managing recreational water facilities.
Staying Afloat on Knowledge
In the NACCHO-Axiall survey, we learned that the majority -- 68 percent -- of health inspectors surveyed held a Certified Pool Operator (CPO®) or Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO™) certification. Both of these certifications focus on pool operation, chemical storage and treatment, water testing and adjustment, and code adherence. These same certifications often are required of pool operators. These certifications aren’t the only ways that the auditors receive training: NACCHO-Axiall survey results indicate that 80 percent also received on-the-job training. The vast majority of respondents also reported being pool inspectors for at least four years. So, when local health departments hire health inspectors to audit pool safety and water quality, they often look for a combination of hands-on experience managing an aquatic facility and either a CPO® or AFO™ certification. But what exactly do these qualifications mean?
Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO™)
Established by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), AFO certification is earned through a 50-question exam designed to ensure that the candidate has comprehensive knowledge of what makes aquatic facilities safe. Exam topics include:
- How does a swimming pool function, on a mechanical level?
- Which systems, equipment and peripherals are required to contain, circulate, filter, heat and treat swimming pool water?
- How often do preventative maintenance and basic equipment repairs need to be performed?
- How does water chemistry work, as it pertains to pools?
You can view some of the sample questions that AFO-certified inspectors must answer in order to earn their qualification on the NRPA website. Could you hit the 78 percent benchmark required to earn certification?
Certified Pool Operator (CPO®)
The Certified Pool Operator (CPO®) certification requires candidates to complete one of two tracks: either an 18-chapter online training course, and a one-day classroom course with a minimum score of 75 percent on the certification exam, or a 14- to 16-hour classroom course.
New technologies like automated chlorination systems and issues like cryptosporidium continuously emerge, so inspectors must obtain CPO certification every five years. All CPO certification courses cover local and federal regulations to make sure candidates are aware of any changes in the industry.
Education and hands on experience are the keys to safety for pool operators and inspectors. Further study can equip you the information necessary to maintain a pool, its water quality and educate staff.