Have you ever spent any time speaking with your health official?
I mean an actual conversation, not just chatting about pH, but what they do aside from pool inspections? These folks have a lot on their plates. 🍽 The environmental health sector, the part of the department that oversees public pool inspections, is a tiny subsection of your county health department. Typically, anywhere from two (sometimes only one) to ten individuals, depending upon the size of the county, that inspects all of the public pools in that county two to three times each year. Think about how many public pools are in your county. That’s a lot!
It doesn’t end there. These same two to ten people conduct food service inspections, so add every restaurant and concession stand in your county to that number of public pools you had swimming in your head (see what I did there). Then consider that these same folks are also responsible for septic inspections (hopefully they do these last), and it doesn’t end there; they also inspect tattoo parlors, piercing studios, biomedical waste, and a bunch more. 🤯
The truth is that these folks don’t want to close your pool, because if they close your pool, what do they have to do? Exactly! They have to come back! The sanitarian is going to have to carve out some time in their already overfull schedule to go back out to your facility to reinspect your pool.📅 These folks honestly do not have that time. This crazy hectic schedule of theirs makes working with them extremely easy if you are not an Ass, and you work with the health official.
That doesn’t mean that they will not close your pool if it is necessary.
The sanitarian absolutely will. You’re not going to be able to manipulate your Health Official, nor should you try. The point I’m making here is that you have an opportunity to foster a good relationship. Building a good rapport is something that can only work out to your advantage. It’s not up to the health official to initiate this, though many will, they are there to do a job. It doesn’t matter whether you like them or not. At the end of the day, they submit their paperwork 📝 and go home.
I had always made sure that I had maintained a great relationship with my health officials. Most of them had my cell phone number stored in their phones. If ever there was a problem at any of my pools, I would get a phone call.
I maintained several swimming pools at student housing facilities, so it wouldn’t be uncommon to get a phone call that would go something along the lines of “Hey Rudy, I’m at such, and such a facility and the ring buoy is missing. Can you get one here before I leave so I don’t have to close the pool?”. I would stop whatever I was doing and head there with a ring buoy. I kept a supply of these on hand as they would commonly disappear (probably hung over a student’s bed somewhere) 🛌🏼
That’s the relationship I wanted to have. That’s the service I wanted to offer to my customers. I wanted them to forget that pools get closed.
They Inspected my Pool the Friday of a Holiday Weekend‼
I remember an instance where I was on the opposite side of town, attending to a pool on the Friday of a holiday weekend, and I received a call. ☎ “Hey Rudy, I’m over at ABC facility, and the pH of the spa is a hair high. Can you get here and adjust it before I leave so I don’t have to close it?” I explained that I appreciated the opportunity and would head there immediately, but could not guarantee that I would be there on time and she should do what she needed to do. Unexpectantly, she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll go grab lunch on the corner and swing back through on my way out.”
Wouldn’t you like the opportunity for a second chance? Especially on a holiday weekend?
I’ve seen the maintenance team immediately drive off-site upon arrival of the Health Official. What are you doing??? If you are not focusing on the relationship during a pool inspection, you are doing it wrong. I’m not saying that every health official will call you on your cell when you are off-site if there is a violation, but it is something to shoot for. I mean, there is value in that. I’m also not saying that you need to go out after hours and grab a few beers. 🍻 Building a rapport with your health inspector takes a lot less effort than that.
Don’t forget that your sanitarian is a person.
Just like all people, public health officials have opinions. Ask the questions that no one has ever asked them before. Ask for their thoughts, respect them as a person, value their opinion. Okay, I know, but it’s simple. Ask your health official for their opinion on anything in that public pool code that might even hint at being subjective. For example, “I know the acceptable range for pH is 7.2 to 7.8, where would you like to see it?”; “I know the acceptable range for chlorine in the code is 1ppm to 10ppm, where would you like us to keep it?”. You get the drift. It’s a start. There are dozens of opportunities and because of your efforts the relationship with one another will be stronger. Besides, wouldn’t you want to know where the person that inspects your pool would like these levels to be?
They’re likely to be floored that you even asked.
Don’t just ask; you’re going to have to make sure that you do it, especially now that you asked. If you blow it off now that you know, it does have the potential to blow up in your face. Still, I mean, think about it. If you normally shoot for a pH of 7.5, is it all that difficult to maintain it at 7.3 if that is their preference? After that, don’t be afraid to close your pool yourself when necessary. Your sanitarian is likely to appreciate that you made the tough call and, as an additional benefit, if you close the pool yourself, you get to reopen it without having to wait for a reinspection. It is not that difficult to have your health official in your corner, especially when the health and safety of your swimming pool is the common goal.