Don't End Up Swimming with the Sharks

Feb 28, 2017


Many of us that work with community associations are thanking the weather gods for a mild winter season this year. While it is always nice to see one significant snowfall each year (and for the kids to get a snow day!), I don’t think I am alone in the opinion that a lot of snow creates a lot of headaches for our communities that are responsible for vast areas of paved parking lots and sidewalks. The snow creates unique challenges for our older residents and can also provide unique challenges for the association’s budget.

But now that we are thinking warmer thoughts with Spring approaching, it makes good sense to think about our swimming pools and plan for the approaching summer. Swimming pools provide a great amenity for many associations as they provide a place to exercise, relax, and work on your tan! Pools also provide a great backdrop for many of our association’s summer social events.

However, much like snow, there is good news and there is bad news. Swimming pools also create one of our association’s greatest risks of injury to our residents and their guests. Like any risk that faces our associations, this is something that can be managed with planning and careful consideration.

The first issue is the condition of the pool area. Has it been maintained well and updated to current codes? Does the pool drain meet the requirements of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act which became law in 2008? Is the pool deck and surrounding areas free from tripping hazards? Check the entire perimeter of the pool fence and with special attention to the gate. The gate should close and latch automatically when opened. Depth markings on the deck should be bold and legible, and signage such as “No Diving” should be prominently posted. Do you have the proper safety equipment available if needed? Is there a working phone nearby in the event of an emergency?  

Second, the pool operation. Are you planning to manage the pool or are you going to hire an outside firm? Are you required by local ordinance to have lifeguards on duty? If so, will you hire them yourself or will the outside firm provide them for you? Generally, we prefer that you use a properly insured and certified pool management company because of the benefits provided by risk transfer to that company. If you are using a pool management company to manage the pool and hire the lifeguards, we need to carefully analyze the specifics of the pool management contract.

From an insurance standpoint, we want to see a contract that requires that the pool management company to maintain General Liability Insurance at set limits during the policy term and that the contract requires that the association is an “Additional Insured”. Further, we want the contract to require that such insurance is primary and non-contributory with the association’s insurance. We also want the contract to require that the pool management company place and keep in force Automobile Liability, Umbrella Liability, and Workers Compensation coverage.  We strongly suggest that all pool management agreements are reviewed with your insurance agent and your attorney to make sure that the proper insurance requirements and indemnifications are in place. We want to make sure that the association is adequately protected and indemnified, so that you don’t end up “swimming with the sharks”.

Whether we use the lifeguards supplied by a pool management company or we hire them ourselves, we will need to make sure that they are Red Cross certified and that copies of those certifications are kept onsite. The lifeguards should be experienced and staffed so that someone is always watching the pool. Lifeguards invariably get distracted by pool maintenance or guest issues and we need to make sure there are always enough lifeguards on duty to do the most important job – guarding the pool!  

Pools can be a great source of enjoyment for the community during the summer months, but we need to prepare to make sure everyone has a safe summer. After all the preparations are done, all we will need then is the sun!

About the Author
Brian J. Friel, CIC, CIRMS earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Penn State University. Prior to joining Smith Insurance in 2000, Brian was a Regional Sales Manager for JJ Keating Company in King of Prussia for seven years. Brian is very active in the community association and multi-family housing insurance marketplace. He has participated in numerous symposiums and seminars for the Community Association Institute (CAI), Greater Philadelphia Condominium Managers Association (GPCMA) and Apartment Association of Greater Philadelphia (AAGP). Contact Brian via e-mail at: and visit CAI Diamond Partner Smith Insurance Associates online


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