Failure to properly chlorinate pool since Saturday leaves pool attendants unable to see bottom of pool and ‘fishy’ odour
Cost-cutting decision to scrap ‘plant operator’ positions at all leisure centres leaves GLL managers manually rechlorinating pools
September 11th: Michael Keenan, Regional Officer for Unite, blasted Belfast City Council’s decision to outsource management of its leisure centres to a management company, Greenwich Leisure Limited, for a series of health and safety breaches most recently that today at the swimming pool in Ballysillan leisure centre.
“Unite has repeatedly warned about the consequences of outsourcing management of leisure facilities by Belfast City Council. The situation today in Ballysillan is only the latest in a long line of concerning incidents.
“As part of the cost-savings that Greenwich Leisure Limited have been asked to deliver by Belfast City council, bosses have done away with the role of plant operator – there used to be one in every leisure centre. These people received formal and extended training to perform the task of safely managing plant and equipment including that related to water safety. Under the new system, we have the situation where staff who perform other functions, usually at management level, are expected to perform these tasks with only two days training.
“The consequences have been a series of health & safety breaches which our union has highlighted in the media. Swimming pools and Jacuzzis need to be chlorinated or brominated at least daily to maintain the safety of users. Today employees in Ballysillan have reported concerns to us that due to the failure to chlorinate the pool there since Saturday, they were unable to see the bottom of the pool – which is vital for the safety of pool users. One worker said that the strong ‘fishy’ smell at the pool was so strong it was like being at the seaside in Donaghadee.
“Staff are concerned that they could not be sure to see a swimmer who has gone under the water which is a clear breach of health and safety. When they cordoned off the pool due to those concerns, GLL bosses stepped in and physically removed the barriers. Management have now started to manually chlorinate by pouring chemicals directly into the water because they are unconfident of using the chlorination plant. There are clear health & safety breach with this approach as there’s no way to be confident that the chemical is properly distributed through the pool and management did not even close the pool off to the public while they did this. Unite has reported these breaches to the Health & Safety Executive of Northern Ireland.
“Yet again, we see an example of how the decision to outsource by Belfast City Council has led to a chronic downgrading of health & safety for members of the public using the municipal leisure facilities”, Mr Keenan said.