Summer might be winding down, but risks associated with the warm weather months continue to impact both public and private entities. From playgrounds to firework shows and swimming pools, wherever people are having fun, special precautions need to be taken.
“The number one cause of accidents on playgrounds is falls, so when we have crowded playgrounds in the summertime, we tend to see a lot more use, and therefore we see a lot more falls – that’s pretty run-of-the-mill for playgrounds,” said Robert Marinelli, risk control manager at Trident Public Risk Solutions.
When municipalities install public playgrounds, they can do a few things to ensure that kids playing on them stay safe.
“They have to make sure that their playground equipment is compliant with the CPSC and the ASTM standards, so they can’t put in any piece of equipment that doesn’t comply with those two organizations. They’re also required to put in some surfacing material,” explained Marinelli, adding that these materials can include sand, wood chips or mats, which all require a different approach when filling playgrounds.
Finally, some municipalities will hold events on playgrounds, where they will then bear responsibility for overseeing groups of excited children.
“If they are supervising some sort of function or recreation-type activity, then supervision comes into play. If they are in charge of little kids, parents expect their kids to come home in one piece at the end of the night, so when they have that direct supervision, they need to take that responsibility seriously,” said Marinelli.
With Labor Day around the corner, there is one more opportunity to shoot off fireworks, which introduces a few key risks.
“Some of the issues have been the storage of fireworks and having fireworks go off prematurely because they weren’t stored properly,” said Marinelli. “Whoever is sponsoring the event also needs to make sure that the vendor they use has gone through all the appropriate licensing and background checks.”
Besides having a reputable contractor take care of the fireworks, and making sure the storage and security around the fireworks are a priority, municipalities should also ensure they’ve looped in the fire department to make sure that if there’s an event, they’re prepared to handle it quickly.
While the fiery event might bring its own risks, activities involving water aren’t necessarily safer either, especially considering that the CDC issued a warning this summer on a ‘crypto’ fecal parasite (called cryptosporidium) that can live for days in swimming pools.
“The problem with this parasite is that it can live in a chlorinated pool for up to 10 days. For reference, an infection like Hepatitis A is usually killed off in chlorine within 16 minutes and giardia is killed off in 45 minutes. Once [crypto] is in the water, it’s extremely difficult to kill,” said Janet Wright, risk manager for Venture Programs.
The parasite is commonly transmitted by children, and if they’ve been infected with diarrhea anytime in the last two weeks and they get in the pool, there is only a minuscule amount required to spread this infection. Once another swimmer ingests the contaminated water, the parasite is on the move.
Public and private swimming pools can take several precautions – and do so right now, since July and August are the months when this outbreak is at its highest – to lessen their exposure to both business interruption losses, should their pool have to close for a time to get rid of the parasite, and reputational harm.
“It is critical that swimmers are educated in not drinking water, and washing themselves after the pool,” said Wright. “If people know that a club has had an outbreak, they may be hesitant to allow their children to swim there or to go back. Stepping back a minute to prevent these outbreaks is critical, [ensuring] that staff is educated in how they respond to an emergency, but also having a recreational illness prevention program.”
Swimming pools can post signs and warnings to keep their swimmers in line. Another way to prevent the spread of crypto is having staff be comfortable telling poolside parents to change their children in areas located away from the pool, since that’s another way the parasite moves from victim to victim.
“The financial impact could be pretty hefty if there were to be an outbreak because you’re going to have to close the pool,” said Wright, adding that chlorine bleach is a key way to kill the parasite, which means you first have to completely drain the pool. “You’re going to lose potential food and beverage sales, or the cost of having a contractor come in to drain the pool and make sure everything is clean. It’s important to have a prevention plan, and also a plan if something were to happen and how to notify members and staff of the proper steps to take if that does happen.”