Complaints About Poor Water Quality in Pools and Spas Can Sink a Hotel
By Philip J Harvey President, Venture Insurance Programs | April 17, 2016
For hotel guests, a pool can be the most inviting amenity on the property. For hotel operators, pool safety is an ever-present source of liability. Risks go far beyond the possibility of water-related catastrophic losses such as drowning or serious injury in a diving accident. The water quality of a hotel's pools and spas also poses significant safety issues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are on the rise and can manifest in a variety of skin conditions and gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory and eye infections. Additional exposures include the unintentional ingestion of water.
The microscopic parasite Cryptosporidium, for example, has been responsible for many diarrheal illness outbreaks and is resistant to chlorine below certain levels. Giardia, Shigella and Norovirus are also found in improperly maintained pools. In addition, Legionnaires' disease from Legionella bacteria is found in warm water and can thrive in pool and spa water that is not properly maintained.
While the CDC reports the highest risk at public pools, even the most upscale hotel properties with multiple water amenities can expose guests to bacterial illnesses if their pools and spas are not properly maintained. In fact, it's not uncommon for a five-star hotel to have a two-star pool. This can happen when hotel operators base their compliance standards on Department of Health (DOH) codes, which only set the minimum standards acceptable and do not address maintenance, best practices, or many compliance and operational issues.
Categories of Risk
Failure to monitor and maintain water quality can result in a variety of insurance claims with escalating degrees of severity. The most common claims related to a hotel pool's water quality fall into three categories.