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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

Pool dangers 'being drowned out'

Pool dangers 'being drowned out'

Serious accidents in swimming pools and even drownings are not being reported to the government, the Ombudsman said, even though the city's hundreds of pools are regulated by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin said that although the FEHD conducts routine inspections of some 1,370 pools - to check water and equipment quality, as well as the number of lifeguards on duty - there is no notification mechanism in place for serious incidents.

Chiu said she will launch a direct investigation into the regulation of pools licensed by the FEHD.

Media reports on drowning accidents in licensed swimming pools were cited as a motivation of the investigation.

"Unless an accident has been reported by the media or made known through other means, the FEHD would not learn of a serious accident in a swimming pool under its regulation," Chiu said. "If the FEHD has no idea about whether a serious accident has occurred, it can hardly conduct investigations or take follow-up actions."

The direct investigation launched this time will look into the FEHD's mechanism for approving applications for a new swimming pool licence and licence renewal, as well as the procedures for inspecting swimming pools and handling complaints.

The adequacy and effectiveness of the department's current measures for ensuring the hygiene of swimming pools and protecting swimmers' safety will also be examined.

The office will make recommendations for improvement when necessary.

A total of 1,371 swimming pools across the city were licensed as of last June. The Swimming Pools Regulation under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance stipulates that licensees shall comply with the regulation and licensing conditions imposed by the director of the FEHD.

Related regulations require swimming pools to ensure that their equipment and water quality meet certain standards and that a sufficient number of qualified life-saving attendants be on duty during opening hours.

According to Chiu, the FEHD received 470 complaints related to licensed swimming pools between 2017 and June 2022.

"As the licensing authority, the FEHD has a responsibility to ensure that licensed swimming pools comply with the regulation and licensing conditions, especially those pertaining to swimmers' safety," she said.

The Ombudsman is collecting information and views on the topic. The public can provide information and their views in writing to the office by March 28.

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