Pool and Hot Tub Safety
Pools and hot tubs (spas) can have many benefits, but it is important to stay safe while using them. Here are some tips for preventing illness and drowning, as well as information for operators of recreational water facilities.
York Region Public Health inspects all public pools, hot tubs (spas), spray or splash pads, water slide receiving basins, wading pools, baby float spas and residential pools offering swimming lessons and rental opportunities. Check the latest YorkSafe Inspection Reports before you go.
Have Fun and Stay Safe
Just as it’s important to have fun, it’s important to stay safe from illness, injury and drowning when enjoying recreational water facilities like pools, hot tubs, spray or splash pads, water slides, wading pools and baby float spas.
Illnesses that spread in recreational water facilities are called recreational water illnesses (RWIs). These are caused by viruses, bacteria or protozoa, such as E. coli, Shigella, Norovirus, Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
Skin, eye and ear infections are common recreational water illnesses. Many people who get an RWI experience vomiting and diarrhea. People can get ill by swallowing contaminated water or by touching contaminated surfaces in the facility.
- Do not use recreational water facilities like pools and hot tubs if you have diarrhea, vomiting, a communicable disease or open sores on the body
- Take a shower using warm water and soap to rinse off germs, urine, deodorants, creams and lotions before entering recreational water facilities
- Make sure kids who are not potty trained wear swim diapers
- Avoid swallowing water
Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children. For every child who drowns, approximately six to ten more almost drown and will need to be hospitalized. Drowning could occur when children are playing or walking near water.
Actively supervising your child when they are around water or in a pool area is one of the most important things you can do to prevent drowning.
- Never leave a child unattended
- Always be in arm’s reach of your child
- Avoid activities that distract you while supervising, such as using a cell phone or socializing since they can take your attention away from your child
- If you must leave the water or pool area, take your child with you
- Enforce rules like:
- No running
- No pushing
- No dunking
- Never swim alone
- Do not rely on “floaties” (inflatable toys, arm bands, etc.) to protect your children in the water
- Floaties are not approved personal floatation devices in Canada. They are toys, not swimming aids or life saving devices. They are not a substitute for supervision
- Children and weak swimmers should wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
- Do not dive into the shallow end or from the side of an in-ground pool; instead enter the water feet first and dive only from the end of a diving board
- For emergencies, keep a telephone close to the pool
If You Have a Private Backyard Pool
- Follow the Safety Tips listed above
- Place tables, chairs and other objects well away from the pool fence to prevent children from using them to climb into the pool area
- Keep toys out of and away from the pool area when not in use. Young children playing with or reaching for toys could accidentally fall in the water
- Make sure lifesaving equipment (rings, buoys, etc.) and a first aid kit are kept near the pool
- Take a course on pool safety, first aid and lifesaving skills, like CPR
- Never use a pool with its pool cover partially in place. Children may become trapped under it
- Pool alarms or detectors may offer extra protection against drowning or injury, even during winter storage
- If you must leave the water or pool area, take your child with you and make sure the pool gate latches securely when it closes
- Contact your local municipality for specific fencing requirements
- Private residential pools used as rentals of for swimming lessons are subject to additional regulatory requirements (refer to the “Using your Backyard Pool for Business Activities” section below)
If You Use a Baby Float Spa/Hydrotherapy Tub
Baby float spas and hydrotherapy tubs have become popular in Canada. These facilities offer massage and hydrotherapy/floatation services for infants and toddlers. Children float in baby spas/hydrotherapy tubs wearing inflatable or foam neck rings, body rings or using seat-ins products.
- Never leave a child unattended in the water to reduce the risk of injury, drowning or death
- Always be in arm’s reach of your child
- Avoid activities that distract you during supervision, such as using a cell phone or socializing since they can take your attention away from your child
- Be aware that neck rings, body rings, arm bands, seat-ins and other float products are not approved personal floatation devices in Canada. They are toys, not swimming aids or life saving devices, and they will not protect against drowning
- Before using a float spa/hydrotherapy tub, review the facility’s waiver to understand potential risks and liability issues
Check YorkSafe Before You Go
York Region Public Health inspects all public pools, hot tubs (spas), spray or splash pads, water slide receiving basins, wading pools, baby float spas and residential pools offering swimming lessons and rental opportunities. Check the latest YorkSafe inspection report before you go.
You can also look for signs at the water facility to see the results of their latest inspection:
- Water facilities that passed their latest inspection should have a green sign posted in clear view
- Water facilities that did not pass their latest inspection will have a red closure sign posted in clear view
Report complaints or concerns
If you have a question or concern about any public pool, hot tub (spa), spray or splash pad, wading pool or baby float spa, call Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 and select prompt 4 or e-mail @email
Using Your Residential Pool for Business Activities
If you use your residential pool and/or hot tub (spa) for swimming lessons or rental purposes, you are considered to be an operator of a recreational water facility. As an operator, you must make sure your pool and/or spa (hot tub) complies with the Ontario Regulation 565 - Public Pools under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Your pool and/or hot tub (spa) may also need to comply with the Ontario Building Code or local bylaws requirements. See the York Region Letter to Residential Pool Owners and the Short-Term Residential Swimming Pool Rentals by Private Homeowners Fact Sheet explaining these requirements.
To learn more about your responsibilities, see the “Operating Recreational Water Facilities” section below. You may also contact your home insurance provider, local municipality and/or York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 and select prompt 4 to speak with a Public Health Inspector or e-mail @email for more information.
Operating Recreational Water Facilities
This applies to operators of:
- Public pools
- Hot tubs (spas)
- Spray or splash pads
- Water slide receiving basins
- Wading pools
- Baby float spas
- Residential pools or hot tubs (spas) offering swimming lessons and rental opportunities
When to Notify Public Health
You are required to notify public health if you are planning to:
- Open a new public pool, spa, spray or splash pad, wading pool, water slide receiving basin or baby float spa
- Re-open after construction, renovation or closure for more than 4 weeks
- Use your residential pool and/or spa for business activities, such as swimming lessons or rental purposes
You must submit the Application to Operate a Recreational Water Facility notification form to Public Health at least 14 days before starting operation.
York Region Public Health Inspections
York Region Public Health inspects all public pools, hot tubs (spas), spray or splash pads, water slide receiving basins, wading pools, baby float spas and residential pools offering swimming lessons and rental opportunities to ensure compliance with Ontario Regulation 565– Public Pools under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Inspection Results: What to Expect
As part of the YorkSafe Inspection Program, recreational water facilities are inspected by a public health inspector and must pass their inspections in order to operate. View a sample recreational water facility inspection report to see what an inspector looks for during an inspection.
If no critical infractions or health hazards are found during an inspection, an operator will be given a green inspection sign that indicates their facility passed their latest inspection. Operators should post this sign in clear view.
If infractions are found during an inspection, the inspection report will indicate what corrective action(s) the operator is required to take to fix the problems and by what date. A re-inspection may be scheduled to make sure the corrective actions were taken.
If critical infractions that present an immediate risk of illness or injury are found during an inspection, the operator will be ordered to close their facility. A red closure sign will be posted at the facility until corrective action is taken and the health hazard has been eliminated.
Operators are given a copy of their inspection report after the inspection.
All recreational water facility inspection reports are also posted on-line as part of the YorkSafe Inspection Program.
Training Requirements and Resources
Under the Ontario Regulation 565 - Public Pools, operators of recreational water facilities must be trained in operation and maintenance, filtration systems, water chemistry and all relevant safety and emergency procedures.
Below are some resources to assist you with this training. Please check on-line for additional training resources related to spray or splash pads, wading pools, water slide receiving basins and baby float spas.
Certified Swimming Pool Operator course
It is highly recommended that operators of recreational water facilities complete a certified swimming pool operator course (CPO course). Please check on-line for available certified pool operator courses in your area. Lifesaving Society also has resources related to pool operation and drowning prevention.
Public Pools and Spas (Hot tubs) Manuals for Owners and Operators
Admission Standards for public pools were developed by the Office of the Chief Coroner to assist lifeguards and assistant lifeguards in maintaining adequate supervision. These standards require parents or guardians (at least 12 years of age) to accompany and provide direct supervision to children under the age of 10 years.
Class B pools that do not require lifeguards still require children under 12 years of age to be accompanied by a parent or guardian who is at least 16 years of age.
- Public Spa Record Logs
- Public Pool Record Logs
- Recreational Water Facility Inspection Report (Sample)
- York Region Letter to Residential Pool Owners
- Safety Information for Baby Float Spas
- Dogs in Public Swimming Pools
- Short-Term Residential Swimming Pool Rentals by Private Homeowners Fact Sheet
- Short-Term Residential Swimming Pool Rentals by Private Homeowners Fact Sheet (French)
- Injury Prevention Resources
- The Canadian Red Cross Website
- Lifesaving Society of Canada
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Swimming/Recreational Water
- Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers (Canadian Pediatric Society)
- Prevention of Drowning (Policy Statement from American Pediatric Society)
- Ontario Regulation 565– Public Pools
- Application to Operate a Recreational Water Facility
- Visit your local municipality for parks and recreational programs