When I joined TMI, I had never heard of a Certified Pool Operator (CPO®). I had no idea they existed. People really undertake training and education just to take care of a pool? Why? I’d seen my grandfather squint at a pink sample of pool water and throw a few more pucks of chlorine into the floating dispenser, so how hard could it be? A few months later I completed my CPO® course and really began to understand how much there was to know about a pool. Now, 5 years on, I’ve gone on to become an NSPF® Instructor, but I’ll be the first to admit that I still learn something new about this industry every day. As a pool professional, I can honestly say that if I could sell every pool owner on just one point, it would be that an educated staff is one of the best investments you can make.
Do you need to have a Certified Pool Operator® working on your pool? In many states, the legal answer is yes. If you’re not sure if your state requires all pools to be staffed with Certified Pool Operators®, you may be able to find your state (or county) codes here at the National Swimming Pool Foundation® website.
So if you’re in a state where there is no legal requirement, why should you take the extra step to hire a CPO®, or send an existing employee to CPO® training? Simply put, having your pool maintained by an educated professional is the smart thing to do. Did you visit the code page I linked to above? Did you notice that not only does NSPF link to each states code requirements but that in some cases they link to individual county codes? Currently in the United States, there are over 80 separate local codes that govern the maintenance and operation of our pools. While there is a movement towards a national set of guidelines (CDC Model Health Aquatic Code), it is your responsibility to know your local regulations and make sure your pool is in compliance. Most CPO® courses will cover the most important regulations as they apply to your area and will encourage familiarity with all local codes, as well as will encourage the CPO® student to see the state inspector as an ally. Wouldn’t you rather know that you’re prepared for the next surprise inspection, rather than worry that you’ll pass it?
Beyond knowing your local codes, a CPO® has the knowledge to understand and enforce them. A CPO® often has an understanding of a wide variety of systems pertaining to aquatic facilities. They have been trained in the safe handling and storage of common pool chemicals, understand safety procedures in regards to facility maintenance and up keep, know what to look for when it comes to facility wear and tear, and have been educated on the safe and proper management of an aquatic environment.
Finally, and most importantly, a CPO® understands water. Water is far more complex than most people give it credit for. Full of minerals like calcium, copper and salt, and teaming with live creatures such as bacteria, water is not nearly as benign as it appears. Water craves balance. Unbalanced water can do amazing, and devastating, things. Look at the Grand Canyon. Yep, a little water did that. Ok, a lot of water did that. But the same really can apply to your pool. Is there too much calcium in your pool water? Your water will kindly deposit that calcium in your pipes, on your tile, and in your heaters. Not enough? Your water will simply suck the calcium that it needs right out of your plaster walls. Pool water also craves a balance in the measured pH, alkalinity and sanitizer levels. Too much of one, not enough of the others and you’re headed for a dangerous situation.
Consider how many adults, and perhaps children, use your aquatic facilities on a daily basis and think about how expensive your pump room equipment is. Do you really want to leave that pool in the hands of the untrained janitorial staff? Or the fresh out of high school lifeguards? Or perhaps the fitness trainers? I’ve seen pools managed by all of these well-meaning, but entirely unsuited persons. Generally these people try their best to operate equipment they don’t understand, while still working at their other responsibilities. The pool simply isn’t their main focus and inevitably suffers for it, be it via equipment failure or water quality issues. In most cases, hiring or training a Certified Pool Operator® would have been the smarter, and more economic, way to go.
A Certified Pool Operator is a bit like an insurance policy against unnecessary pool closures and costly equipment replacements. With a CPO® maintaining proper water balance, you’re less likely to replace a corroded or calcified heater every few years. You’re less likely to face inspection violations. Instead, you’re more likely to have a safe, inviting environment where bathers want to be. So, do you need a CPO®?