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What happened at the December meeting?

posted 7 Dec 2015, 16:00 by Christel Mex   [ updated 7 Dec 2015, 16:04 ]
Unfortunately Cr Wormald's motion to reinstate the diving board at the Norwood Pool lost by one vote (7-6).  I supported the motion and this is what I said:
Although I missed last month’s meeting, I share the concern for public safety – and I understand how members came to their decision. Some media reports were unfair and personal – which was unwarranted. Despite this, I hope members do not feel backed into a corner on this decision and come to this debate with the premise that we will try our hardest to keep the board open. 

It is also not my intent to expose Council to an uninsurable risk. This debate is not about the swimming centre review, the future of the Norwood Pool, what other pools do, staff costs or whether or not we think diving boards are a good thing to have. This debate is simply about the interpretation of the Royal Live Saving guidelines for Safe Pool Operation and our insurer’s willingness to insure us if we keep the diving board open – which it is.

As I understand it, Council voted to remove the diving board because the depth of water under the board is 65 cm less than what is recommended in the guidelines.

Members understandably are concerned for public safety and financial risk. However if it is about the guidelines, I wish to share the following information. According to the Royal Lifesaving Association, the recommended pool depth in the guidelines is adapted from the FINA Handbook. The preamble to the FINA Handbook for facilities states the following:

 “The Facilities Rules are intended to provide the best possible environment for competitive use and training.  These Rules are not intended to govern issues related to the general public. It is the responsibility of the owner of a facility to provide supervision for activities undertaken by the general public.”

 The FINA table that provides the 3.4 metre pool depth for competitive diving facilities states that it is “for pools constructed after September 2013”. Perhaps this needs to be investigated.

 Armed with this information, one can only assume that these guidelines might not apply to the Norwood diving board, as it is not used for competitive diving use or training and it was built well before 2013.  In addition, the preface of the Royal Lifesaving Guidelines states:

 “The Guidelines are intended to be voluntary, acting as a guide to operators on the safe operation of swimming facilities. They have no formal, legal or regulatory status.  and,

 “It is not intended that all of the guidelines be implemented immediately following publication. Indeed, it is recognized that it may take operators and support agencies some time to implement the Guidelines. For this reason it is suggested that for new Guidelines they be phased in over a period following introduction.”

 I understand that this paragraph was not included in the staff report that was sent to the insurer.

 I sought clarification from the national office of the Royal Lifesaving Society to explain in more detail the intent of the clause and I received this response today:

“The intention of this statement in the guidelines is that an owner or manager of an aquatic facility will not be required to implement the Guideline effectively immediately as it would be unreasonably practicable, however, given the prescribed guidance they are still required to eliminate and minimise risks to health and safety as far as reasonably practicable to the extent of its capacity to influence and control the risk.  

Ultimately the owner or manager of an aquatic facility (in this instance the council) has the duty of care and while new guidelines may not be phased in immediately, this does not negate the council having a responsibility to mitigate the risk as far as reasonably practicable in their view and in accordance with their risk management policies. What these measures are is a matter for the owner or manager of the aquatic facility in accordance with their risk management policy.”

An analogy is Formula One Race Cars vs cars on the road. There are different guidelines for Formula One, than there are far cars – different rules apply – and we manage the risk as a community for cars, by requiring that they are registered and insured.

The reality is, is that we are planning ahead as though we have a Formula One diving board.

I reiterate that the FINA facility rules, on which the Royal Lifesaving Guidelines are based, are for facilities used for competitive use and training - and are not intended to govern issues related to the general public.

So if your concern is about the guidelines, I put to you that we are complying with the guidelines by phasing them in over a period of time through the swimming centre review – as per the introduction statement in the Royal Lifesaving guidelines.

Diving boards are a big attraction for those pools that have them. The Adelaide Aquatic Centre has the three and five metre towers open for public use althoug the ten metre board is closed. The Murray Bridge pool has a diving board similar to ours which is open.

If the premise is to do our best to keep the board open, lets work on good risk management strategies, as per the staff recommendation, and keep it open.

(I called for a division so that the individual votes will be recorded in the minutes, which will be published on the website in the next few days, along with the full agenda papers: http://www.npsp.sa.gov.au/about_council/council_and_committees/council_agenda_and_minutes)

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