Pool Reflections …
Why all pool & spa service techs need CPO certification
By Lauren Broom
When I was a public pool inspector, I regularly checked the certification status of the pool operators. Once, I inspected a public pool with many violations that resulted in pool closure due to lack of free chlorine and high pH levels. It turned out the local pool company technician was not certified. That lack of certification could have explained the many severe public health and safety violations at the pool. A phone call to the pool company resulted in enrollment of their pool tech in an approved pool operator certification course within 30 days.
In my experience from pool inspections, I have truly seen the implications from the lack of formal training, like the CPO course, can have on a pool service business. Education is one item that a pool service tech can do for themselves to stay in compliance, but also to keep the pool healthy and safe. So many of the pool closures that I was a part of could have been easily prevented through proper training such as through CPO..
What is the Certified Pool Operator Course?
This certification is nationally recognized with a standardized curriculum on health and safety that is accepted by a majority of regulatory authorities. Having this certification allows a pool service technician to better clean and service public and private pools. It can help increase the customer base for the pool service company and the quality of service given. In time, this will help the pool service tech retain customers through thorough service that results from this training program. Uninformed pool techs can become informed pool techs if they are serious about completing pool industry training.
However, it should be noted that, this certification is not a state license and does not allow repair of any pool.
My CPO Course
I have been a CPO instructor for the past nine years and have taught hundreds of pool service techs.
I teach from my experiences from working at the Florida Dept. of Health as a public pool inspector.
My CPO class is taught monthly online and in the classroom. The average class size for both class types is twenty people.
My classroom course is taught with a fun environment and hands-on training.
This version includes pool side training for pool water testing and pool equipment.
This course type is ideal for those that are in need of an instructor in front of them. The online CPO course version has replaced hands-on training with videos that will show the same concepts as in the classroom courses. Pool water testing is done via videos prepared by the instructor.
Curriculum for this course can be found on the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance website(www.phta.org).
Both versions of the course are available as a 2- day course or a fusion of online and in person courses. Most regulatory agencies require 14-16 hours of instruction.
Lauren Broom is a Certified Pool Operator Course, CPO
® , instructor and a former health inspector for the Florida Department of Health. Lauren has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and is a registered sanitarian.
She has 16-years of experience in commercial pool inspections and waterborne disease outbreak investigations.
Lauren lives in Palm Bay, Florida with her husband of 17 years and their 3 children. Lauren can be reached at [email protected]
Lauren Broom CPO Class Structure Course Materials
The CPO instructor will provide the 2020 CPO Handbook along with all supplemental handouts for the completion of the course. These materials are provided at the time of the classroom course or emailed to the online CPO student.
Why get CPO certified?
Most pool techs initially get their certification so they can service and maintain commercial pools. But the course is just as important training for continued success for any pool service tech. Risk management is one topic not often considered in the pool industry and sometimes the pool service tech does it without even knowing that they are. Identification of risks and meeting OSHA standards in the pool industry is not something often followed or discussed. These topics are briefly covered in this course in order to minimize or eliminate safety hazards in the pool area. Also, recordkeeping is highlighted as one of the most important items for a pool service tech to do after training. Proper recordkeeping helps to legally protect a pool service tech by showing that they performed the tasks they should have performed. Do not underestimate the usefulness of a detailed chemical and maintenance log. As in the case with many other industries, if you don’t document it, the inspector won’t believe that you did it!
The Pool Systems
The pool tech will understand what the different parts of a pool system are that control circulation, filtration, chemical treatment and heating. The CPO course highlights each section of the pool equipment and how it works in the pool. The course details basic maintenance and problems with the equipment that can be handled by a certified pool operator. Remember, any repairs still have to be completed by a licensed pool contractor.
Chemicals to disinfect water
A pool tech will learn what pool chemicals they could use as a disinfectant against recreational water illnesses and oxidize other contaminants. This concept is very important in order to maintain a safe and healthy pool. Disinfectants are the main tool that any pool service tech can utilize to keep algae out of the water and to prevent recreational water illnesses. The CPO course details all of the chemical tools available to the pool tech.
The most important concept taught in the CPO course is water balance. This is the one concept that a pool service tech must take away from this course. Pool water balance takes all the individual puzzle pieces of total alkalinity, pH, calcium hardness, total dissolved solids (TDS) and temperature and puts them together. These water balance parameters are connected to each other to determine if the water is corrosive (hungry) or scaling (overstuffed) water. The ideal result is to have the pool water balanced. The pool service tech learns about the consequences of unbalanced water on the pool surface and all other pool system components that the water touches. These consequences can be financially devastating to the tech’s pool customers and ultimately lead to loss of customers.
Water balance is a great tool for private pools too. A vast majority of newly constructed private pools are on salt chlorine generators. Pool water imbalance has a negative effect on a salt chlorine generator and its ability to properly generate free chlorine into the water. In turn, this affects how recreational water illnesses are killed and algae is destroyed.
Pool water levels are not always going to be properly balanced and changes have to be made to correct these imbalances. The pool service tech should be comfortable with the knowledge of pool chemical dosage (the amount of chemicals to be added to a pool to correct imbalanced pool water levels.) Improper training can result in chemical overdoses or not adding enough chemicals to correct imbalances. Overdoses can cause harm to pool users, such as burns. Thus, lack of training can hurt people who use the pool.
Proper water testing procedures are covered in the CPO course. Hands-on pool water testing occurs at many inperson CPO courses. The online course will have some component to teach water testing to the pool service tech and not just slide presentations. Many pool service techs are amazed at some of the small mistakes they make on water testing after this section of the course. The pool service tech will even learn about the proper method to store their pool test kit. As an instructor, proper test kit storage is a small topic but one of the biggest mistakes that the pool service tech makes. Pool techs typically do not realize how much improper test kit storage affects them when obtaining accurate water test results.
I conducted countless inspections where the pool tech had improperly stored their pool test kit on their trailer, in the bed of their truck, on their pool vacuum tray or in the pool equipment area. Temperature can significantly affect the accuracy of the water test results.
A good pool service tech should know what steps should be taken when there is a fecal accident in their pool. The CPO student will learn about these steps and what the negative impacts are if they do not follow the CDC fecal guidelines which are taught in this course.
Health departments like the one I worked at monitor all reportable illnesses and interview ill persons. Interviews were conducted to identify where the person might have been swimming while ill. Afterwards, the pool tech who serviced that pool was contacted. This contact was documented by the inspector in the epidemiology medical records regarding the requirements of the pool service tech to follow CDC Fecal Guidelines. These CDC fecal guidelines are taught as part of the CPO course.
The pool service tech also learns that they can be negligent if more people get sick due to their lack of knowledge about recreational water illnesses and what actions to take for fecal accidents in pool water.
Entrapment involves a person actually getting stuck on a suction outlet, mostly the main drain outlet.
Suction entrapment is a very important topic covered in the CPO course. It tackles the two main types of pool circulation designs and how they impact entrapment. The course details prevention as the best line of defense. Pool code requires the use of a main drain cover that meets the requirements of the Virginia Graeame Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2008. Pool service techs are taught how important it is for them to do their visual safety inspections of these main drain covers to ensure they are intact and not loose or missing.
Furthermore, the course also shows that a vacuum line cover is also on direct suction and that those vacuum line safety covers must also be compliant. Children can still get their arms entrapped even if the vacuum pump is inoperable.
Pool service techs will be taught about the local public pool rules and how they apply to their facilities. I would inspect public pools and come across so many poorly trained pool service techs that did not even know how a public pool was defined or how it was regulated. In these instances, the pools would usually be closed due to lack of proper training on Chapter 64E-9, F.A.C. CPO instructors are required to educate on the local regulatory code with their students.
Preparing for CPO
The CPO Course, offered by Space Coast Pool School LLC, has many preparatory videos and documents in the CPO Resources section of the website at www.spacecoastpoolschool.com/ resources. There is also a monthly podcast and a blog page where information can be found to get prepared for class.
The only supplies needed for class are pencils, paper, highlighters, tab page markers and a calculator. These supplies are identical for all CPO class types.
The CPO Test
The method of instruction and test taking will not change the structure of the test. The CPO test is an open book and open note test and the use of a calculator is allowed. The test is comprised of 50 multiple choice questions. Math questions only make up 16% of the test with most of the remaining questions covering actual concepts within the textbook provided. Passing score is 75% with allowance to miss 13 questions on the test. The classroom course includes the test on the second day. It is graded onsite by the instructor. The online test is identical to the paper test and is taken on the “Test Trac” the same day as the Live Zoom Review. The online test is graded immediately by the system upon submittal.
Florida requires specific online proctored testing steps to be taken for the test to be valid per the Florida Department of Health rules.
Local regulatory code should be covered on proper closure of this pool due to poor water clarity