Each year at the Float Conference, we put on a Certified Pool/Spa Operator (CPO) training course. At first, that might strike you as an odd thing to have as part of a float tank conference. This post will explain what CPO training is and why we think it can be a really useful certification to have on your belt.
Some Background on CPO Training
If you look through all the pool and spa health department regulations out there, it’s not uncommon to come across a requirement to have a certified employee on staff. Health codes often list a handful of different organizations that they accept certifications from, but the CPO certification (which is done through the National Swimming Pool Foundation) is the most widely accepted.
The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) has been around for 50 years. It is a non-profit that is aimed at encouraging more people to take part in aquatic activities, and focused on keeping people safe while they do it. In addition to the CPO course, they also fund aquatics health and sanitation research and contribute to other aquatics programs and organizations.
The NSPF also puts on the annual World Aquatic Health Conference, which is basically the conference to go to if you’re interested in the newest information and research on pool/spa sanitation and regulations. The heads of many state health departments are always in attendance, as well as a lot of the largest manufacturers of pool/spa equipment. We go out each year, and often speak at the conference, sharing information on float tanks directly with the health department officials who are deciding how they should be regulated.
What information is covered in the CPO course?
The Certified Pool/Spa Operator training is, as you may have guessed, all about how to operate a commercial pool or spa. And more specifically, how to operate it safely, for both you as the operator, and for the people swimming.
Here is a breakdown of the some of the bigger topics that are covered in the course:
- Basic pool water chemistry: An explanation of what things like pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, turbidity, etc actually are, why they’re important, and what their ideal ranges are.
- Chemical testing: How to measure all those different chemicals, and how to adjust them when they’re off.
- Contaminants: What sorts of bacteria and viruses get people sick in pools and spas, how they spread, and how to deal with them.
- Disinfection: The different types of sanitizers used in pools and spas (chlorine, bromine, UV, ozone, etc), how they work, and how to properly use them.
- Equipment: How the actual hardware of the pools and spas work (things like pumps, filters, heaters, chemical dosers, etc), the routine maintenance they require, and how to operate them safely.
- Regulations: A breakdown of all the different major regulations and guidelines that pools and spas are purview to and why they exist.
- Facility operation: Proper record keeping, facility maintenance, and day to day operational procedures.
How is this relevant if I’m running a float center?
There is certainly information in the CPO course that is very specific to pools and spas, and it’s important to remember that we need to question even some of the most basic assumptions about pool and spa knowledge once 1000 lbs of Epsom salt is introduced into the equation. That being said, there is actually still quite a bit of info in the CPO course that is really useful to float center operators.
We deal with the same harmful bacteria that people bring into the water, a lot of the equipment used for float tanks is pool or spa equipment, much of the water chemistry we try to measure is the same, etc. There are also a lot of operational practices that are very similar. We both have to deal with preventing slip and fall accidents, making sure we’re running and cleaning the equipment properly, and doing proper record keeping.
Perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the CPO training is the information on regulations. Working with the health department can be a struggle in some areas, and the information in the CPO course can really help make this process easier. You not only learn how the regulations work, but why they exist. Knowing the reasoning behind the regulations is incredibly helpful when you’re trying to explain why certain parts of them are not applicable to float tanks, and what you can do instead to meet the same spirit of the law. All of this info also helps you learn the vocabulary of the pool and spa industry, which means you can speak the same language as the health regulators you’re working with. Not only will this make it easier for you to understand what they’re looking for in your center, but fact that you took the time to educate yourself above and beyond the requirements shows them that you treat the water sanitation in your tanks seriously.
Lastly, while it is currently incredibly rare, there are a few cases of float centers actually being required by the health department to have a certified staff member like a commercial pool or spa.
The logistics of getting CPO certified
The Certified Pool/Spa Operator training is a two day course. You have the option to do both days in person, or to do a fusion course, where you do half of the training online, and then a single day in person.
At the end of the course you take a test, and if you pass you become a Certified Pool/Spa Operator (which includes a sweet patch you can iron onto your jacket so that everyone knows). The certification is good for five years.
There are CPO courses happening frequently all over the world. You can do a google search for classes in your area, or you can look them up on the NSPF’s website. They typically cost somewhere between $300-$400.
Like I mentioned before, we also teach a Certified Pool/Spa Operator course every year at the Float Conference. The nice thing about that class is that it is taught by one of the Float On owners, Jake Marty, who went through the training to become a CPO certified instructor. Unlike the other CPO classes, we can help put the information into a float tank context.
So, there it is in a nutshell. While the course if not perfect for float centers, it can be incredibly helpful to learn how the pool and spa industry functions, and in many cases will lead to your float center being safer and cleaner as a result. And at the very least, you get a sweet patch.