Racing Start Proficiency -- In late April and early May 2010, Pacific's safety chair received three reports of young swimmers incurring head injuries sustained when colliding with the pool bottom after a racing dive. Fortunately, none of the injuries was serious. In all cases, the water depth was sufficient to permit starts from a starting block. In two cases, coaches were notified immediately prior to the meet that the pool depth was of minimum depth, and they were encouraged to remind their swimmers of proper diving technique. Yet collisions with the bottom did occur. This suggests that the swimmers might not have been proficient in racing dive techniques.
USA Swimming Rule 103.2 (Water Depth) includes a requirement that coaches certify that every swimmer is proficient in performing racing starts. USA Swimming has published a procedure which coaches are required to follow, plus a discussion of the rationale for this requirement and some frequently asked questions. In his letter of March 17, 2009, Bruce Stratton (Chair, USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee) made it clear that the certification process is a requirement of all coaches. Links to the material distributed by USA Swimming on this subject are immediately below.
Coaches are reminded that it is their responsibility to certify the racing start proficiency of every swimmer in their charge, and to maintain records documenting this assessment. Clubs are reminded that failure of their coaches to comply with the certification requirement puts their club at risk. Moreover, failure to comply is a violation of USA Swimming rules.
The racing start proficiency certification procedure is described in the following letter from the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee. The rule requires that a Racing Start Certification Checklist be completed for every swimmer, regardless of age or experience. A Frequently Asked Questions document has also been provided by USA Swimming to answer questions about the process.
Listing of safety training providers updated -- Follow this link for a listing of safety training providers who are active in Pacific's territory. The listing was last updated in April 2011, and reflects our best knowledge of who is currently providing safety training for swim coaches in our area. Please let Pacific's Safety Chairman know of any changes or updates which should be made to the list.
Requirements and equivalents list updated -- Click here for an updated (August 2011) list of requirements and equivalents for coaches needing to update their safety certifications. This list provides guidance for coaches as to which CPR, first aid, and safety training courses and providers are acceptable for updating their certifications.
Rule revised re teaching race starts -- The USA Swimming Board of Directors has amended Article 103.2.2 of the USA Swimming Rules and Regulation, which governs the teaching of racing starts, to require that a USA Swimming member coach certify that a swimmer is proficient in performing racing starts from blocks or the pool deck. The certification process includes the completion of a Racing Start Certification Checklist.
This rule change is the result of a study conducted by USA Swimming's insurance provider aimed at reducing the risk of serious head/neck injury resulting from a swimmer’s collision with the pool bottom during a race start dive. The amendment takes effect on May 1.
The rule change is described in the following letter from the USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee. The new rule requires that a Racing Start Certification Checklist be completed for every swimmer, regardless of age or experience. A Frequently Asked Questions document has also been provided by USA Swimming to answer questions about the new process.
Also provided are a Safety Notice to All Member Clubs and Coaches and a Notice to Parents. Clubs are advised to post both notices prominently at the venues where they conduct practices and competitions. Club Safety coordinators are asked to ensure that appropriate administrative procedures are established to meet the compliance requirements of USA Swimming.
Marshals no longer need to be members of USA Swimming -- Current and future meet directors should be aware that it is no longer necessary that meet marshals be members of USA Swimming. This revision to Rule 202.3.3 of the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations was passed by the September 2007 USA Swimming House of Delegates and is effective immediately.
Change to water depth requirement -- USA Swimming has amended section 103.2.2 of its Rules and Regulations to require that effective immediately, the minimum water depth for teaching racing starts in any setting from any height starting block or the deck shall be 6 feet (1.84 meters) measured for a distance of 3 feet 3-1/2 inches (1.0 meter) to 16 feet 5 inches (5.0 meters) from the end wall. (The requirement formerly was for 5 feet minimum water depth.) See important additional information in Safety considerations for coaches and officials below.
Background Screening Program -- USA Swimming has launched a background screening program for coaches, to ensure the eligibility of the coach consistent with USA Swimming’s Code of Conduct. Background screens must be completed every two years.
When a coach is not current with one of the three safety certifications or the background screening requirement, the coach is not insured as a coach member of USA Swimming, and must not perform in any capacity as a coach. In addition, the club’s insurance protection may also be in jeopardy. There is no grace period; when any one of the four requirements are not current, the coach's registration is invalid.
Here's a link to the Background Screening page on the USA Swimming website, which contains information and a link to initiate a background screen.
Safety report -- Follow this link for a copy of Safety Chair Mike Metcalf's semiannual safety report to the Pacific Swimming House of Delegates on Nov. 29, 2006.
Safety Organization in Pacific
Pacific Swimming Safety Committee: Pacific Swimming is one of 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSCs) of USA Swimming. Pacific, like every LSC, has a Safety Committee whose chair is appointed by the General Chair. Follow the link for the duties of the LSC Safety Chair. Each of the five zones of Pacific Swimming is expected to appoint a zone safety coordinator. These coordinators should maintain contact with the club safety coordinators and are encouraged to engage in an active dialog on safety issues within their respective zones. The LSC safety chairman for Pacific is Mike Metcalf. Email him at this address.
Club Safety Coordinator: Each of Pacific Swimming's 100 member clubs is required under USA Swimming regulations to appoint a Club Safety Coordinator, whose duties are to develop and conduct the safety program for the club. Follow the link for the Club Safety Coordinator Job Description. The safety coordinator should establish a relationship with the zone safety coordinator; at a minimum, contact should be made with the LSC Safety Chair.
Safety Considerations for Coaches and Officials
Coach Safety Curriculum: USA Swimming requires that all coaches be members of USA Swimming and that all clubs ensure that their coaches join USA Swimming as coach members and that coaches satisfactorily complete required safety training. All coaches who are on deck at practices and meets must meet the training requirements for coach membership.
Coaches are required to show current proof of training in First Aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Safety Training for Coaches. Each year an updated Coaches Safety Curriculum is published and is included in hard-copy form with the annual insurance packet provided to member clubs. The expiration dates of each of the three training requirements are noted on every coach's registration card.
New coaches and those renewing their memberships can follow this link for the current Coaches Safety Curriculum. USA Swimming also provides a current listing of Requirements and Equivalents (most recently updated February 2011), which identifies acceptable courses and training sources. Follow this link for a list of local Safety Training for Coaches service providers (most recently updated April 2011).
Member clubs must ensure that all their coaches complete the necessary training and maintain valid registration cards. Clubs should remember that their membership is a privilege, not a right. Membership may be terminated by the Pacific Swimming Board of Review, or by the National Board of Review, for any violation of a member club's responsibilities - including failure to ensure that all coaches are properly registered.
Safety Checklist for Referees -- The head referee should conduct a walk-through inspection of the meet venue prior to the meet getting underway. Given all the other activity that goes on during the pre-meet period, it’s sometimes difficult to conduct an effective inspection. USA Swimming's Safety Education Committee has developed a handy checklist designed to help referees perform their safety inspections. The Referees Safety Checklist is designed to be prepared as a two-sided laminated card, which referees can easily carry with other meet materials. The page linked to above contains four complete cards, plus suggestions on preparing the card in laminated form.
Racing Starts and Pool Depth -- USA Swimming has been concerned for some time about head and neck injuries sustained when swimmers impact pool bottoms while diving into pools. In 2001 USA Swimming adopted a rule that limited the teaching of racing starts to water depths greater than 5 feet (during practice and competitions, racing starts could still be performed from a starting platform in water 4 feet deep or greater, or from within the water if the water depth is less than 4 feet).
In February 2007, USA Swimming amended Section 103.2.2 of its Rules and Regulations to require that the minimum water depth for teaching racing starts in any setting from any height starting block or the deck shall be 6 feet (1.84 meters) measured for a distance of 3 feet 3-1/2 inches (1.0 meter) to 16 feet 5 inches (5.0 meters) from the end wall. This requirement refers only to the minimum water depth while teaching racing starts (Section 103.2.2). USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee advises that coaches will have to exercise their professional judgment as to when a swimmer has been taught how to do the racing start and can then practice starts under Section 103.2.3, which requires 4 feet minimum water depth for racing starts off a block during practice and competition.
Any swimmer who is insufficiently skilled in performing racing dive starts should not be permitted to dive from a starting platform. Coaches have a role to play in teaching proper diving technique, and this can help avoid head and neck injuries that can be caused by improper racing dives. Starting from the pool deck, or in the water, are acceptable options.
Swimmer Supervision: All athlete members participating in a sanctioned meet must be under the supervision of a USA Swimming member coach during warm-up, competition, and warm-down. Coaches must be aware that, if swimmers from their team are going to be attending a meet without being supervised by a coach from their team, they should make arrangements in advance with a fellow coach to ensure that their athletes are appropriately supervised. The meet director or meet referee will arrange for such supervision at the meet if arrangements have not been made otherwise.
Safety Considerations for Coaches and Officials with Disabilities: Persons with physical disabilities are able to perform as coaches providing they follow USA Swimming's procedure for coaches with physical disabilities. In addition to completing the coaches certification requirements, a letter must be provided to USA Swimming from the club's head coach or board president stating that a lifeguard or another USA Swimming coach will also be on deck at all times. USA Swimming then provides a waiver for those portions of the certification requirements that the individual is unable to perform by reason of physical disability.
Persons with physical disabilities are also able to perform as officials. No waiver procedure is necessary. However, officials with disabilities should be especially aware of their physical limitations and should not allow themselves into situations where they may be at personal risk or risk to others.
Safety Considerations for Meet Operations
Meet Planning (for the Meet Director): A major responsibility of a meet director, as representative of a member club hosting a swim meet, is to provide a safe venue for the swim meet. Safety planning is critically important in order to ensure that risks are removed or mitigated, and to organize appropriate staff to enforce safety rules and procedures. USA Swimming has prepared a number of useful tools for swim meet planning. Pacific Swimming has developed some materials useful in training for meet directors.
Several clubs have experienced keen interest on the part of their pool operator for the number and deployment of marshals. Meet directors should work closely with their respective pool operators to develop adequate and reasonable plans for marshals, and to agree on how meet marshals and pool lifeguard staffs will work together.
Marshals-Training and Other Material: Every sanctioned swim meet must have a crew of marshals who are responsible for enforcing the safety rules of USA Swimming, Pacific Swimming, and meet management. A head marshal must be identified on the meet sheet in order for a meet to be sanctioned. (Note that meet marshals are no longer required to be members of USA Swimming.)
Warm-Up Procedures and Safety Guidelines:
Accident statistics demonstrate that a large percentage of accidents occur during warm-up sessions, when a large number of swimmers are in the water at the same time. Pacific Swimming's Warm-Up Procedures and Safety Guidelines establish standards for safe conduct during a swim meet, with particular attention to warm-up sessions. Copies of the procedures must be prominently posted within the swimming venue during any meet. Officials and marshals are obliged to enforce these procedures and guidelines.
Reports of Occurrence: USA Swimming requires that every incident involving either bodily injury or property damage, incurred during any activity sanctioned or approved by USA Swimming must be reported to USA Swimming via the Report of Occurrence form. This includes any incident (regardless of severity) involving any participant (athlete, coach, official, volunteer, or spectator) at any activity (a swim meet, practice session, or team outing). A copy of the report also goes to the Pacific Swimming office. Information from the reports is entered into a database of accident statistics compiled nationwide, and is used to analyze accident trends. This is important at both the national and local levels for developing safety policy and procedures. Follow this link for a copy of the current Report of Occurrence form.
Claim Procedure: Numerous questions have been posed as to the process for making claims against USA Swimming insurance. The process is shown in this Claim Procedure Chart, which has been published by USA Swimming. To initiate a claim, a Report of Occurrence must have been filed. Thereafter, the process shown on the flow chart will commence. It is usually not necessary to contact USA Swimming to facilitate the process. However, Mary Illich is available at USA Swimming for assistance (719-866-4578). In her absence, Carol Burch, also of USA Swimming, can also respond to questions. Please do not contact Risk Management Services or Mutual of Omaha. Risk Management Services is the insurance broker for USA Swimming; Mutual of Omaha is the insurer who provides Excess Accident Medical coverage, which is the insurance that would operate for claims. Any questions, contact Pacific's Safety chairman.
Lightning Safety: Lightning is something that must be taken seriously when conducting outdoor aquatic activities. Even though the non-mountainous parts of Northern California are not known for frequent electrical storms, and lightning is not commonly observed in the region, thunderstorms can be expected each year in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.
The following advice is offered by the National Weather Service, regardless of location: If thunder is heard, a thunderstorm is close enough to pose an immediate threat. All water activities should be suspended and everyone should be instructed to take shelter in a safe place, preferably a sturdy building, or even a hard-topped vehicle with the windows closed. The "30/30 Rule" should be your guide: When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If the interval is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is close enough to be dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. Stay indoors until 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder. Coaches, officials and meet directors should act accordingly when conducting workouts or meets. Pool operators should consider incorporating lightning safety practices in their pool operation procedures.
Additional information is available at NOAA's lightning safety web site at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.
Portable Gas-Fired Space Heaters: Portable gas-fired (propane) space heaters pose a safety risk to people who may accidentally contact an operating heater unit. Several burn injuries caused by such heaters have been reported in recent years; in another incident, a gas-fired heater set fire to a sleeping bag within a tent that was located in an area where numerous young swimmers were congregated. Pacific Swimming does not condone the use of such heaters within swimming venues, and meet referees and marshals must ask persons to remove their personal heater units from the swimming venues.
("Swimming venue" means the area located on the sides and ends of the pool, spectator area, team areas within the pool facility (e.g., portion of the building designated for teams and swimmers, or fenced area around outdoor pool), locker rooms, any adjacent areas used by the swim meet, and such other areas that may be specifically designated by the host club or organization, meet director, or meet referee.)
Animals on Deck: No one should bring an animal onto a pool deck or even into the swimming venue, which includes any area in which swimmers congregate at a meet or practice session. Incidents have been reported involving children being bitten by dogs at meets within our LSC. Meet management and officials should ask any person who brings an animal on deck to remove the animal immediately. The prohibition on animals is not only common sense, but also a requirement under state law. (Exceptions should be made for a service dog that is required by its handler, or a dog in training for such purposes.)
Announcements at Meets: An announcer is required for any swim meet and is important for running an efficient and safe meet. Sound amplification is commonly used, but local noise ordinances at some venues prohibit early morning use. Meet management must be aware of the oftentimes conflicting interests of swimmer safety and local noise control compliance.
During a meet it is useful for the announcer to make occasional safety announcements. Some appropriate safety announcements have been compiled by USA Swimming and are offered for use at meets.
Out-of-LSC Swimmers: Pacific Swimming clubs host numerous meets attended by swimmers from others LSCs. Visitors are often unaware of Pacific Swimming's safety procedures and guidelines, and are sometimes reluctant to follow safety requirements that might be different from those in use in their home LSC. Every participant at a Pacific Swimming event is required to follow Pacific Swimming safety procedures and guidelines, regardless of what the participant is used to.
Insect Control/Bee Stings: Insect control and bee stings can be a significant problem at swim meets, especially at food and drink vending and hospitality facilities at large meets during warmer parts of the year.
At least two effective measures are available for insect control: Adequate trash receptacles that are covered and kept from overflowing can go a long way to controlling the food and drink that attracts insects. Also, insect traps liberally deployed around the perimeter of the swimming venue are usually effective in drawing insects away from where they can do harm.
Safety Considerations for Facilities
Safety Action/Emergency Response Plans: All clubs should develop a Safety Action Plan for each of the facilities that are used for their aquatic activities, whether for meets or practice sessions. In most cases, pool space is rented or leased from a pool operator, in which case the club is obliged to conduct their activities in a manner consistent with the pool operator's regulations, policies and procedures. The club should find out what kind of emergency plan the pool operator has in place, and then work with the pool operator to develop a plan suitable for the club's activities at that pool. Some examples of safety action plans are available from the University of Minnesota, and provide a handy starting point for developing plans suitable for other facilities.
Safety Checklists for Aquatic Facilities: USA Swimming has assembled several checklists for aquatic facilities that can be useful during setup of a pool for a meet. The checklists, which are available in the USA Swimming Safety/Loss Control Guidelines, are also useful for clubs as an aid for routine checking on the safety condition of their pools. Pacific Swimming has developed a Safety Checklist for Aquatic Facilities that is also being considered by USA Swimming for nationwide use.
Pool Covers: The dangers of a swimmer becoming trapped beneath a pool cover were brought home recently by the accidental drowning of a water polo swimmer at a pool within Pacific Swimming's territory who was trapped under a partially covered area. Pacific Swimming advises member clubs that, while it's the responsibility of pool operators to establish policies and procedures for the use of pool covers, it's essential that clubs be aware of the operator's regulations, policies and procedures and ensure that their coaches and athletes comply.
Poolside Electrical Safety: USA Swimming rules require that all equipment permanently or temporarily connected to electrical circuits at line voltages must be protected by ground-fault interrupter (GFI) devices. State and local regulations provide more detailed requirements and pool operators are bound to follow those mandates. Some pool operators have adopted policies on use and placement of electrical equipment on their pool decks. Pool users should discuss this subject with pool operators during meet setup.
Safety in National Governing Bodies for Swimming
USA Swimming Safety Education Committee: The Safety Education Committee is a standing committee of USA Swimming that reports to the Vice President for Local Administration. The Safety Education Committee reviews policies and procedures of USA Swimming for safety considerations, and reviews accident statistics and makes recommendations on training and activities for safety purposes. The committee presently comprises nine volunteer members -- including swimmers, coaches, and others -- plus a staff liaison. Most of the safety information generated by the committee can be found at the risk management and safety section of the USA Swimming web site. Much useful information can be found in the USA Swimming Safety/Loss Control Guidelines, which is maintained on the USA Swimming website. Lastly, the committee publishes safety information and updates in Splash Magazine, USA Swimming's official publication, which is mailed bi-monthly to USA Swimming members.
Insurance: All members of USA Swimming (athlete, coach, and non-athlete) are covered by USA Swimming’s umbrella insurance. The insurance is written by United States Sports Insurance Corporation (USSIC) and is administered for USA Swimming by Risk Management Services. It is critical that all athletes, coaches and non-athletes (officials, marshals, and meet directors) be duly registered USA Swimming members in order to ensure insurance coverage. Follow this link for more information on insurance coverage available to USA Swimming members.
US Masters: United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions, clinics and workshops for adults aged 18 and over. It has no formal relationship to USA Swimming. However, registered members of USA Swimming may participate in a USMS activity, and vice-versa, with full benefits of the insurance protection of their respective organizations.
USA Swimming officials frequently officiate at US Masters meets. On occasion an incident has been reported by a USA Swimming official using the USA Swimming Report of Occurrence form. This is not strictly correct, since US Masters and USA Swimming are separate organizations. Accident reporting at US Masters meets should be done with US Masters forms.