Numerous hazards lurk within the walls of the swimming pool pump room, toxic chemical fumes and carbon monoxide chief among them. In some commercial properties — apartment complexes, condominiums, hotels, country clubs and the like — the pump rooms are properly ventilated, but in far too many, this is not the case. The result is an unsafe work environment for pool maintenance technicians as well as premature wear on equipment.
“In a perfect world, pump rooms should be comfortably sized to accommodate and access all pool equipment,” says Katie Crysdale, principal of Lakeview Aquatic Consultants, a Canadian consulting firm in the commercial aquatics industry. “In reality, this rarely happens. The key piece is that there should be negative airflow, so that the build-up of exhaust or fumes is vented outside.”
How can a service technician know a pump room is not well
ventilated? Crysdale says to look at the infrastructure within the pump room.
Prematurely corroded pipe brackets, for instance, point to the presence of
The strong odor of chlorine inside a pump room can also be an early warning. Rudy Stankowitz, president and CEO of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants in Gainesville, Florida, notes that many service technicians, working constantly with the chemical, may be afflicted with olfactory fatigue — sometimes called “nose blindness” — that makes them no longer able to detect chlorine odors at the low levels others find repugnant. He recommends technicians be equipped with handheld air quality monitors, as most commercial pump rooms do not have devices to detect chlorine gas or carbon monoxide.
A simple solution to a ventilation problem, Crysdale says, is
installing vents in the exterior doors. For a temporary solution, prop the
exterior door open while inside the space, being careful never to allow
uncontrolled access to the mechanical room and closing the door when you
“The biggest thing I see overlooked is fresh air coming back into the space,” says David Penton, founder and CEO of Fluid Dynamics Pool and Spa in Fullerton, California. “It’s not just pushing the air out. There need to be allowances for fresh air coming back into the space as well, either through louvered doors or piping; simply installing an exhaust pipe and installing a discharge fan is not enough.”
Penton adds that, even in the absence of heating equipment, a
room with numerous pumps will create considerable heat, which should be
accounted for. It is common, he says, for equipment from other trades to be in
the pump room and the heat generated by these also needs to be taken into
If the space is within a vault, it needs to be evaluated based on
OSHA requirements. At a minimum, Penton suggests signage at the entrance
to the pump room indicating that access is restricted, as well as details on
the hazards present in the room. An appropriate fire extinguisher is also a
good idea, as is an eyewash station, if chemicals are present. He also
suggests looking at the whole room for additional hazards beyond room
ventilation, such as double containment of chemical tanks.
If a pump room presents a
significant risk to the safety of maintenance personnel, Penton says, more
drastic action should be taken, with lock-out/tag-out being the most extreme,
until changes are made. “The
property management should be informed in writing with specific minimum
recommendations for your own personal safety and the safety of your
staff,” Penton adds. “Once
these minimum safety standards are met, recommendations for ideal conditions
should be evaluated based on the specific site conditions.”