Make Friends with your Health Inspector (No, really!)
If there’s one thing I routinely hear from new commercial pool operators, it’s this:
"My health inspector is all over me because... it's so unfair!"
Like routinely inspecting airplanes, government regulation in many places has determined that the potential risk to public health is such that commercial aquatic facilities (hotels, water parks, condo buildings, spas, etc.) need to be routinely inspected. Why? To ensure compliance.
And yet, rather than understand that this is just part of the process, many pool operators take it personally.
I’m here to tell you that your health inspector is your biggest supporter, and here’s why: the health inspector would love nothing more than to show up, see what they need to see (compliance), and leave quickly.
Health inspectors have a tough job. Depending on the region where they work, they’re inspecting swimming pools, restaurants, funeral homes, beauty salons, water treatment plants, etc. They see a lot of terrible work practices and disgusting consequences. When they shut a place down, they know that often results in people losing their job or livelihood.
It’s also a lot more work to write up citations and enforce a facility closure.
I'm here to tell you that you can make your life easier by becoming friends with your health inspector. No, really! I'm not joking. They want to help you because that helps them keep the public safe.
Here’s five steps to start building a positive relationship with the one person who can become your biggest ally in successful pool operations: your health inspector.
Step #1: Work every day to make your facility compliant.
This should be obvious, but it is worth stating: work every day to ensure your facility is compliant. Follow your local codes. Keep the safety of bathers in the forefront of your mind. Ask yourself: would I swim in this pool? Would I let my kids swim in this pool?
Compliance is not an end state, it’s requires constant effort each and every single day.
Step #2: Respect that it’s not about you.
Understand that a health inspector is a person who has sworn an oath to public safety. The health inspector - respectfully - doesn't care if you forgot to order chlorine yesterday because you had to leave early due to a family emergency. The law wouldn't see it that way.
You as a pool operator have a duty of care to provide a certain standard of care to customers using the aquatic facility. The health inspector’s neck is on the line where public safety is concerned. It’s not personal, they legally can’t look the other way. Figure it out or close the pool.
Step #3: Communicate more often than you are currently.
Nothing helps build trust and a strong relationship faster than communication. Communicate early and often. Whether you are planning a big renovation or a voluntary closure due to an equipment failure, take five minutes and send your health inspector an email.*
Save the inspector a trip to your pool when they receive a complaint- get out in front of it and report it! Busy is not an excuse – we’re all busy.
*While a phone call is a nice courtesy, it does not leave a written record.
Step #4: Honesty is always the best policy.
We’ve all been stuck before. Whether you've been running a swimming pool for 10 months or 10 years, we still run into new situations. If you don’t know what’s going, or why something happened, be honest. Honesty will pay off in spades both in terms of you maintaining your credibility as a pool operator, and in terms of keeping the public safe
Step #5: Ask what you can do better next time.
You are not Teflon-coated, you can always improve...how you adjust water chemistry, how you respond to mechanical failures, how you communicate with your customers. Ask for feedback, do an after-action review; ensure that you are learning from your mistakes.
What’s the lesson from all this? If you’re a pool operator who dreads someone coming in and checking your work, it’s time to think seriously about the way you’re operating your commercial aquatic facility. Everything is fair game for scrutiny. Would you want to swim in a pool with no oversight?