By Lauren Broom
Pool technicians, like many other outdoor workers regularly share their workspace with many different hazards that can bite or sting the worker. Some examples of these outdoor hazards are wasps, hornets, bees, ants, spiders, snakes, alligators, racoons, and even the customer’s dog. Outdoor workers are among workers most frequently victims of nonfatal insect and arachnid injuries and illnesses. Pool techs should know how to approach their outdoor workspace safely to protect themselves from these hazards. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration(OSHA) requires that employers provide training to their employees in order to reduce these types of workplace hazards to their employees.
Where should a pool tech look for these hazards?
Pool techs need to recognize potential locations of these workplace hazards. Locations could vary, but could include: skimmer baskets, under lips of surge and scum gutters, pool pump areas, pool equipment enclosures, pool equipment rooms, pool heaters, electrical panels and in even in the pool itself. Pool techs should also be aware of any landscaping around the pool and the pool equipment. Landscaping makes the perfect hiding place for these hazards.
Should a pool tech be concerned about a racoon in the pool?
Yes, pool techs should be concerned if a racoon was in the pool. The pool tech should also be concerned if the racoon left feces(poop) in the pool or on the pool deck. The steps of a pool are a magnet for racoons to wash their paws in the water.
Racoons can spread germs to humans. Racoon feces can sometimes contain eggs of a roundworm parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis, which can infect humans, especially children, and cause severe neurological illness. Swallowing a few of the roundworm eggs can result in no or few symptoms. However, swallowing a larger number of the roundworm eggs can result in more severe illness that affects the nervous system or eyes.
So what is the big deal for a pool tech? The roundworm eggs are particularly tough, so just adding chlorine to the water will not kill them. The pool tech will have to remove the feces from the pool. Next,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Broom the pool tech will have to run the pool filter for a minimum of 24 hours and then backwash the pool filter. Potentially, the pool tech may have contact with the feces during removal and from overspray from the backwashing or spraying off different filter media. Always treat racoons and their feces as if they potentially infected with this roundworm to best protect yourself!
Personal protective equipment that should be worn during feces removal and filter cleaning at minimum would be dust mask and disposable gloves. The feces and contents of filter should be double bagged and discarded in plastic garbage bags. The pool tech should then remove their gloves and place them in the garbage bags. The pool tech should always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water afterward this process.
What should employers do to help their employees to this type of workplace hazard?
The employer should train all their employees about specific animal and insect risks that their employees may come across on the pool property and what areas to look for them. The training should also include: the use of proper personal protective equipment(PPE) employees should wear, how to prevent snake bites, procedures on how employees respond to a bite or sting, and how to contact Emergency Management Services(EMS). Employer and employee should know the history of employees with severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings. That employee should have an epinephrine auto injector on them and maybe wear medical ID jewelry. Have a Emergency action plan & Do training on what to do if employee were to get insect bite or sting
What can a pool tech do to reduce their exposure to this workplace hazard?
Workers should not handle or touch any animals or insects. If there is a dog on the property, do not enter if you do not know that the animal is friendly. The recommended method would be to knock on the door of a property that the animal status is unknown before entering that backyard. Pool techs have also stated that they whistle before entering a property that is unknown on animal status to see if a dog is on the property. Pool techs should stay away from any tall grass and piles of leaves. This is an area where animals like snakes tend to hide. Remember, snakes are most active at dawn and dusk and in warm weather.
Pool techs should always look carefully in all areas that an animal could hide, for example: skimmer baskets, under lips of surge and scum gutters, pool pump areas, pool equipment enclosures, pool equipment rooms, pool heaters, electrical panels and in even in the pool itself.
Pool techs should use the proper PPE to protect themselves. Pool techs may have tools that they can utilize to help with removal of these hazards. The pool industry has developed so many pool poles and other unique tools that could be used to keep them at a safe distance to these living workplace hazards. The Skimmie is one example that the pool tech could use to safely remove skimmer baskets.
Pool techs should wear clean, light colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible while working. Do not use scented soaps, shampoo and deodorants before work. Avoid working near flowering plants when possible. Keep your work area clean and do not have food in pool area. Stay calm. Never swat at an insect because it may cause it to sting you. If an insect is inside your vehicle, stop slowly and open the windows. If stung, immediately wash the sting site with soap and water. Call EMS if an allergic reaction occurs.
Pool techs should always be aware of their surroundings. Know what is going on around you at all times!