Water Safety Month: NSF and Independent Standards


Cities across the country celebrate Water Safety Month  by making swimming lessons more accessible and by working with communities to create safer habits in and around water.

In previous articles, we’ve highlighted the importance of standard practices to help prevent accidents, specifically around slip-resistance, best practices around water, considerations around lap-swimming concussions, and the importance of lifeguards. We will always strongly believe in teaching safe behaviors.

We also believe that mindfully implemented industry standards, codes and certifications are the front line of improving water safety. In fact, we’ve spent the past 4 years working with NSF to create a standard for aquatic surfacing (more on that soon). Through this work and conversations with aquatic designers and manufacturers, we fully believe that safety starts with creating a “standardized experience” for guests before facility doors even open.

So, what are these standards and what do they do? Let’s talk about it.

Is It Up to Standard?

When we talk about “standardized experience” we’re not talking about cookie-cutter experiences or facilities. We believe (and love!) that every aquatic space serves a unique audience and is designed within a unique environment.

Standards provide the industry with health and safety guidelines that have been tried, tested, and evaluated. These standards are proposed, discussed and tested by experts inside the industry as well as by independent professionals. As technology advances and different pain points arise, it’s these professionals who incite change, form task groups, and provide their expertise to keep technical guidelines up to date.

At their core, industry standards like the NSF-50/ANSI and ASTM provide a roadmap of tested and evaluated products for facility operators to choose from. Specific to aquatics, these standards take the risk and guesswork out of finding safe and durable products having to do with sanitation, filtering, and material quality.

The Difference Between a Standard and a Code

Standards are not codes. The Model Aquatic Health Code, for example, is self described as “ a voluntary guidance document based on science and best practices that can help local and state authorities and the aquatics sector make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer.” (x) We see here that code can be adopted and enacted by a regulatory agency or government.

The standard, in turn, will lay out acceptable criteria, technical definitions, and minimum requirements for the codes to work with.

Or, according to NSF International: “In a nutshell, a code tells you what you need to do and a standard tells you how to do it.” (x)

The Certification Process

Making a standard is an incredibly comprehensive undertaking and certifying products to fit a standard is an especially rigorous part of the process. When NSF certifies a product, the inspection begins with an objective review of the entire manufacturing process, including the product formulation, product production, and a facility inspection. The product will also go through an impartial process that tests the product specifically to the standard’s requirements.

Therefore, when a product is NSF certified, it takes the guesswork and risk away from the operator by providing a product that puts public health and safety at the very forefront. Manufacturers also benefit from the increased credibility around their product and remain accountable to a national standard.

And most importantly, the public benefits by having a standardized safety experience, providing the ability to focus on individual action (like learning to swim!) and confidence to trust the water they’re wading into.