Select Page

In the image above there’s a water rescue manikin under the inflatable between the yellow and red vertical pillars. There’s a kid behind, looking in the general direction.

Last summer, for our third year, I did some work with the aquatic team at Lake Macquarie City Council. We were using Robin, my rescue manikin, to test our Dead Water™ maps and identify problematic areas of the pool. For those who haven’t met Robin yet, here’s an introduction.

During one session the centre had their large inflatable play structure in the pool, so we took the opportunity to do some dummy drops.

First we sunk Robin in an area where the shadow of the inflatable fell. It was 1.2m deep. Even in a red long sleeve sun shirt he was harder to detect than I would have imagined.

The Laerdal water rescue manikin has an internal chest airbag which, when inflated simulates a child floating face down on the surface. So next we floated him under the middle of the inflatable structure.

From the deck, the inflatable structure was only about 3m away. We weren’t really surprised when we couldn’t see him. So we walked around to the other side of the pool which put us about 8.5 meters away. From here we thought we could see right under the structure because we could see the shadow on the bottom of the pool, on the other side of the structure.

Although the manikin floats, his legs dangle down 500mm below his torso. To our amazement we couldn’t see his legs; not even his feet. Robin was completely undetectable no matter where we stood on deck.

This is refraction. Under the right conditions refraction can mean that you can see the surface of the water and the bottom but not a body in the column of water in between. In my training sessions we discuss refraction at length; how it happens, images of what it looks like and how to address it. Refraction is not a lifeguard’s friend.

As we begun to process what we were seeing, the first obvious question was ‘what do we put on our risk assessment now?’ How do we supervise a spot we can’t see?

The answer is, eyes on the prize. Every person who falls off must be positively seen to leave the water. This also means controlling the number of people on the structure at any one time, so that they can be effectively supervised by lifeguards.

Like all aspects of pool operation, the use of an inflatable brings a whole ‘raft’ of risks that need considering.

In March, while in New Zealand delivering Pool Super Vision™, I took the opportunity to catch up with Karen & Martin Stratford, the owners of A Flex Technology at their factory in Nelson. If you ever get the chance it’s worth a look.

Karen & Martin have over 2 decades of experience in the industry and have developed excellent risk management processes, not just for the operation of inflatables but for the purchasing and handling aspects as well.

I have shown them the image above and discussed the new information this brings to light. They are already considering this for their next risk management review.

As a side note I just discovered that Aflex hold the world record (Guinness Book) for the longest water slide; 600m ! Man I want one of these; Worlds longest water slide.

If you’re in the market for an inflatable, insist on a quality product underpinned by proper risk management processes.

I have no affiliation with Aflex Technology.