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10 million annual visits to public pools in Western Australia

10 million annual visits to public pools in Western Australia
January 14, 2015

Public swimming pools in Western Australia attracted 10 million visits last year, although their proportional growth in patronage did not match the growth in Western Australia's population.

Revealed in the just published Bigger, Better, Safer: 2013/14 Western Australian Aquatics Industry Report, the aquatics industry in the west appears to be in a strong position recording annual expenditure of $68 million in 2013/14 and employing over 3,000 people in full time, part time and casual positions.

Prepared by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA), backed by the Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation and the Leisure Institute of WA Aquatic Inc (LIWA), the report explains the state of the aquatic Industry in Western Australia.

Commenting on the report, LIWA Executive Officer Tony Head explained "this report not only ensures we measure and report on our successes but highlights areas in need of improvement and development."

In the report's introduction, Peter Leaversuch, RLSSWA's recently appointed Chief Executive, writes "public aquatic centres provide significant benefit in terms of community development, sport, recreation, health and fitness. 

"The Royal Life Saving Society WA and Leisure Institute of WA [LIWA] have collaborated for a number of years on this unique research project in order to: 1. Better understand the industry, its drivers and to quantify key characteristics; 2. Monitor risks to patron safety and identify trends; (and) 3. Evaluate compliance to industry benchmarks and standard operating procedures."

The report has been prepared with an intended audience that includes: pool managers, the Western Australian Government and local government, and the Local Government Insurance Service.

Leaversuch added "this project underpins Royal Life Saving’s knowledge and expertise. 

"It guides the ongoing development of programs and services ensuring they remain both effective and relevant. 

"It also provides the intelligence both LIWA and Royal Life Saving need to credibly perform their respective leadership and advocacy roles.

The report included the following key findings and recommendation:

State of the Industry
• Aquatic centres are an important resource for the Western Australin community with over 10 million visits each year. However, growth in patronage has not matched the growth in the WA population.
• Water usage is trending down with a sample of 103 pools recording a 9.5% decrease in consumption since 2007/08. However, annual reductions in water usage are becoming smaller and water saving initiatives need to continue to be implemented.
• Train pool operators and lifeguards locally to meet shortfalls in qualified personnel.
• Promote swim instructor employment opportunities. Particularly in regional areas, to encourage instructors to take up positions and remain in the industry.
• Explore reasons behind high staff turnover rates. Nearly 40% of both pool operators and lifeguards do not maintain their registrations after 12 months and strategies are needed to retain them.
• Participation in the LIWA Industry Survey is high but more regional aquatic centres are needed to ensure a good representation of the industry in non-metropolitan areas.

Injuries at Public Aquatic Centres
• Participation in the aquatic injury research project has doubled since last year but more regional pools are needed to ensure an accurate representation of these pools.
• Most injuries occur in a swimming pool. Scanning strategies need to be adapted to identify both drowning and non-drowning related injuries.
• Types of incidents and injuries vary by age. Training should highlight differences across the age groups to allow better identification of patrons at risk and appropriate responses.
• Three quarters of all injuries occur to children aged 0-14 years. Promotion of carer supervision for the prevention of all types of injuries needs to be continued.
• Major injuries are rare but require specialised skills. Aquatic staff need to have regular training in advanced first aid to maintain these essential skills.
• More thorough reporting of injury data is needed. Improvements in data collection would reduce the need to exclude reports and would increase the accuracy and quality of information reported.

Safety Assessments at Public Aquatic Centres
• Safety Ratings are high at participating centres with an average score at 88.6%. 
Assessment components with the lowest average scores were Chemical Safety, Special Features and Water Slide and should be the focus of future industry professional development. 
• Ratings at lower scoring centres have improved with 10 pools increasing their rating from below 80% to above in the last year. Pools with ratings below 80% should continue to work with RLSSWA to improve their ratings in the coming year.
• Assessments should be done at least every three years to maintain Safety Ratings at 90%. Pools that have not had assessments in the last three to four years should be encouraged to undergo assessments in the next year.

Click here to view the Bigger, Better, Safer: 2013/14 Western Australian Aquatics Industry Report.

Image courtesy of Craigie Leisure Centre.

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