Article 165 - Bathing Establishments
Proposed Rules: Closed to Comments
STATEMENT OF BASIS AND PURPOSE
Intentional hyperventilation and competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding can be dangerous. During these activities the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body can drop, delaying the breathing reflex. Coupled with the lack of oxygen to the brain, a swimmer can lose consciousness and drown.
The Department has identified four drowning incidents in New York City and 12 other incidents in New York State between 1988 and 2011 that were confirmed or suspected to have been caused by a loss of consciousness underwater due to lack of oxygen caused by intentional hyperventilation or by competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding. Four of the sixteen swimmers involved died in incidents associated with intentional hyperventilation. Yet, many swimmers are unaware of the risks associated with these activities.
The Department has also studied relevant policies, practices and guidance of multiple jurisdictions and organizations with respect to these specific swimming behaviors. Several jurisdictions require pool operators to post signs regarding the risks associated with prolonged breath-holding activities and extended underwater swimming. These signage requirements can be found in the rules of local governmental jurisdictions that regulate pool facilities and in the policies of large governmental entities and non-governmental organizations that own and operate pool facilities. Additionally, governmental agencies and safety awareness organizations have developed guidance and educational material that promotes swimming behavior rules and/or signage requirements to reduce the risks of the above activities.
Article 165 of the Health Code addresses bathing establishments, including swimming pools. The Department is proposing that this article be amended to require that the operators of bathing establishments discourage intentional hyperventilation and competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding, but if allowed, only under supervision in accordance with the pool’s approved pool safety plan. The amendments would also require all pool operators to post signage advising swimmers that these activities are dangerous.
The Department also proposes to require pool operators to update their safety plan when there are programing or operational changes at the facility and/or as directed by the Department.
PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE HEALTH CODE
The following changes to Article 165 are proposed:
• §165.19 - Pool Safety Plan – The proposed amendments would require a pool’s safety plan to be updated when there are changes to operations or conditions and/or as directed by the Department.
• §165.21 (l) - Facility Operating Policy – The proposed amendments would add a provision stating that intentional hyperventilation and competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding be discouraged, and permitted only when supervised in accordance with a pool safety plan approved pursuant to §165.19.
• §165.41(u)(2)(k) - Safety and Warning Signs – The proposed amendments would add a requirement to include a sign warning that intentional hyperventilation and competitive, repetitive or prolonged underwater swimming or breath-holding are dangerous and can be deadly. This rule will take effect 90 days after adoption by the Board of Health.