Ask hotels and health clubs if they’re caring for their hot tubs the safely and correctly
By Shane Davies*
Commercial premises with hot tubs have a legal duty under health and safety law to maintain spa water consistently. Close monitoring and control are required to ensure water stays clean and safe for users to enjoy.
What are the risks of dirty spa water?
Hot tubs are one of the key attractions of visiting a hotel or health club. However, if they’re not maintained efficiently, they can pose significant health risks. Spa water can be quickly contaminated with sweat, skin, hair, urine and even feces. Harmful microbes such as Legionella bacteria can thrive, causing people to become very ill. The main reason for this is that hot tubs typically operate at between 30°C and 40°C – the ideal temperature for germs to flourish.
Hot tubs in commercial premises should be tested regularly for aerobic colony count, coliforms, E.coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Legionella tests should also be carried out either every quarter or as defined by a risk assessment. Microbiological analysis needs to be performed in a laboratory accredited for the analysis to ISO17025 standards. If the results aren’t acceptable, you’ll need to take follow up samples and then carry out remedial action.
Chemical tests should be performed at the same time as microbiological tests. The results will indicate the pH and total alkalinity levels. Getting the alkalinity right in hot tubs is vital for neutralizing acids. Alkalinity is an important part of balancing pH levels and is often referred to as “buffer” since it helps water resist drastic changes in pH. The total alkalinity should be between 80 and 120ppm. If the alkalinity is high, this may indicate too many chemicals in the water, the presence of bacteria, or even too many body oils such as sweat or lotion.
Regular sanitation is required to prevent and kill the bacteria that can flourish in hot tubs. Chlorine or bromine are the recommended sanitizers. Both of these chemicals will eradicate unwanted germs, helping to keep users safe. Spa water should be tested every two hours to ensure that the sanitizer levels are correct and ideally there should be a floating spa dispenser that continually releases the chemicals into the water.
In commercial settings, the person managing the spa should be fully trained on spa water management and ensure they remain up to speed with the latest industry rules and regulations. Importantly, all checks should be logged, with paper records required to be retained for six years. Commercial hot tubs should be drained down and fully cleaned regularly.
As you can see, a lot of work is required to keep commercial hot tubs clean and safe for people to use. Hotels, health clubs and other leisure providers must carry out frequent microbiological and chemical testing as well as thorough sanitation of hot tubs to ensure they are complying with the latest health and safety laws.
*Shane Davies is the managing director of Hot Tub Barn, a leading UK retailer of hot tubs, swim spas and pools, with 8 showrooms and over 25 years of experience in the industry.