Fears that ‘unsupervised’ diving into Tenterfield Pool was a thing of the past have been alleviated somewhat by changes to the Pool Management Plan which makes the rule more flexible.
The management plan submitted to councillors at the meeting on December 19 included a recommendation that all recreational diving as well as bomb diving and flips be banned. Recreational diving is considered to be anything outside swimming carnivals, swimming club nights, learn-to-swim classes and activities supervised by coaches, when cones can be removed from the diving blocks.
While no-one at the meeting took issue with the banning of bombing and flips, several councillors expressed their concerns about becoming a ‘nanny state’. Cr John Macnish recalled swimming in the ‘old pool’ where one of the few rules was to get out if a black snake got in.
“It sounds like OH&S (occupational health and safety) is killing the pool,” he said.
Cr Mike Petrie agreed, saying people have been diving into that pool for 50 years.
“You should be able to dive in, not slide in like a turtle over the side,” he said.
Danielle Kelly took the opportunity to express her concerns in the public access session ahead of the meeting. She said Tenterfield is fortunate to have a pool to a depth of three metres (although, as council’s WHS Risk Management Officer Wes Hoffman pointed out, it’s only that depth in a small area in the very centre of the deep end).
She also objected to standing diving being grouped in with bomb diving and flips.
“At our local pool, we can’t dive in and go for a swim? It’s ludicrous,” she said.
She said there were five pool centres in the area (although one’s in Queensland) where swimmers are allowed to dive into deep water.
When the pool management plan came up later in the agenda, Properties, Buildings and Landscape Coordinator Heidi Ford clarified that the management plan was not a set of rules or a piece of legislation, but more of a guideline. There is scope for the pool managers to make decisions on whether to allow certain activities based on their risk assessment of the situation at the time.
Mr Hoffman said the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations 2018 published by Royal Life Saving Australia was a dramatically-changed document now addressing two realms: duty of care and risk management.
Cr Bob Rogan has connections with people with extensive pool management experience who advised him that many pools now ban standing diving into deep water.
“We can’t look back,” Cr Rogan said.
“We now live in a world of risk assessment.”
At our local pool, we can’t dive in and go for a swim? It’s ludicrous.- Danielle Kelly
Mr Hoffman said he was ‘extraordinarily happy’ with how the new contractors are managing the pool, but that they must identify all hazards. While standing diving in isolation may look OK, factors such as staffing numbers, demographic of who’s using the pool and more must all be assessed on a rolling basis. The management plan provides a starting base line.
Mr Hoffman suggested that if anyone wanted to dive they should ask the contractor if it’s OK and they’ll do a risk assessment. He said if the pool’s quite empty but there’s a school group coming in later, the swimmer may be told they can dive for half-an-hour from a particular spot and staff will keep an eye on them, for example.
Councillors discussed how the current climate of assigning liability has put ‘common sense’ on the backburner.
“Common sense is a delicate flower that doesn’t grow everywhere,” Cr Peter Petty said somewhat poetically.
Ultimately councillors altered the section on diving in the management plan to allow recreational standing diving, in water deeper than 1.8 metres (from halfway up the pool), at the discretion of the pool contractor based on a risk assessment at the time.
In response to Cr Macnish’s query on how the pool was going under its new managers, Chief Corporate Officer Kylie Smith said on balance, things are going well. Attendance numbers were up on those of last season, although there’s some question over whether historic figures were accurate.
She said that council had received a number of verbal complaints and written submissions, noting that people experiencing problems with the facility would tend to be more vocal than those happy with it.
Due to a lack of patronage after 5.30pm, closing time will be brought forward from 8pm to 6pm, although extending to 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings during December and January.
Operating hours will be monitored and reviewed as necessary.
The pool is available after hours for events and functions by negotiation with the contractors.
Who’s supervising who?
Cr Bronwyn Petrie took issue with the guideline that supervisors of young swimmers have to be at least 18 years old, pointing out that there are instances in town of parents aged under 18. She’d prefer to see the age limit left at 16.
The management plan now accepted by councillors states that unstructured swimming lessons and water familiarisation should only be done by an adult aged 18 years or more. If they’re not actually conducting the lesson, a parent or legal guardian needs to supervise the entire lesson. Cr Petrie thought use of the term ‘legal guardian’ was fraught with danger.
Children under 12 years must be accompanied into the pool by a responsible adult aged over 18.
Those aged under five must be supervised at arm’s reach at all times. They must also wear a Watch Around Water yellow arm band as a visual aid to help pool workers identify who should be within arm’s reach of an adult.
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