Public swimming pools ― key risk control information and best practices

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children. Nearly 4,000 deaths from drowning occurred each year from 2010 to 2019. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that an average of 379 drownings among children ages 0 to 14 happen in swimming pools each year between 2015 and 2017.

Public swimming pools are those intended for public use, including municipal pools, various clubs, hotels and motels, schools, parks, and others. Pool operations present many different liability exposures that must be addressed to help ensure safe pool operation and mitigation of liability exposures. Considerations include pool access, pool design, water quality and safety, emergency equipment, emergency procedures, supervision and training, and many others. Below are just a few of these considerations and links to helpful resources for pool operators.


  • One or more persons should be trained and competent in pool management, as demonstrated by a certification such as the Certified Pool Operator (CPO).
  • If lifeguards are provided, they need to have an appropriate level of training or certification.
  • An emergency plan should be in place for the pool and should be practiced regularly by staff.


  • Fencing around the pool should be at least four feet or higher as required by local codes.
  • Gates must be self-closing and secured during non-operational hours.

Water safety

  • Drain safety: for in depth information, see the Virginia Graham Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act
  • Depth markings should be at or above water surface on vertical pool wall and at the edge of the deck
  • Electrical installations in the pool area should be designed for use in wet areas


  • Signage should indicate maximum capacity, normal hours of operation, No Diving (if applicable), and other prohibitions as necessary.

Emergency/safety equipment

Emergency equipment that should be conspicuously mounted near the pool should include:

  • Shepherd’s crook
  • Ring buoy
  • At least one working emergency telephone
  • At least one first aid kit accessible by staff

Helpful links


The recommendation(s), advice and contents of this material are provided for informational purposes only and do not purport to address every possible legal obligation, hazard, code violation, loss potential or exception to good practice. The Hanover Insurance Company and its affiliates and subsidiaries ("The Hanover") specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that acceptance of any recommendations or advice contained herein will make any premises, property or operation safe or in compliance with any law or regulation. Under no circumstances should this material or your acceptance of any recommendations or advice contained herein be construed as establishing the existence or availability of any insurance coverage with The Hanover. By providing this information to you, The Hanover does not assume (and specifically disclaims) any duty, undertaking or responsibility to you. The decision to accept or implement any recommendation(s) or advice contained in this material must be made by you.

LC  2021-601