Pool Inspection Data Collection & Database Construction

Developer programmer working on project in software development computer in IT company office

Before developing an electronic database for aquatic inspection data, it is important for individuals with different expertise work together to determine what data are needed to support program planning, implementation, and evaluation. For example, environmental health practitioners have technical knowledge about the operation and maintenance of public aquatic venues and inspection experience, epidemiologists are skilled in analyzing data, and information technology (IT) specialists have expertise in developing and maintaining electronic databases. Collaboratively establishing what data need to be collected and how will guide data collection and database construction in a way that optimally enables data analysis.

To support environmental health aquatic program planning, implementation, and evaluation, state and local public health–IT teams should examine electronic inspection data to:

  • Determine the frequency of immediate closures and individual violations;
  • Characterize the distribution of immediate closures and individual violations by aquatic facility setting (e.g., hotel/motel or waterpark), venue type (e.g., pool or hot tub/spa), pool type (e.g., wading pool and interactive water play venue); and,
  • Monitor, over time, proportions of inspections that result in immediate closure or identify a given violation.

Capturing electronic data at point of observation (for example, using a handheld computer) is ideal but not always possible. Another option is to scan data collection forms to reduce the data entry burden. Posting electronic inspection reports on the web lets the public check inspection results before deciding which public aquatic facilities to swim in, in the same way they use food service establishment inspection results to decide which establishments to eat in.

For more information, please read the CDC report on common pool inspection violations that supports these recommendations.

Recommendations and Rationale for Pool Inspection Data Collection and Database Construction

Recommendations and rationale for pool inspection data collection
Recommendation Analysis Outcome or Rationale
Set up database with either one row per violation identified (and note which, if any, inspection items were not inspected) or one row per inspection with a column for each individual inspection item. Facilitates data analysis.
Set up database so that the codes/numbers for each inspection item in the data set matches the codes/numbers for each corresponding item in the inspection form. Reduces data entry errors and facilitates data analysis and interpretation.
Set up one single database to capture data ALL inspections conducted in a given time frame, not only a subset. Helps ensure analysis of complete data set.
Design database so that is flexible and allows data fields to change over time. Allows database to be altered with changing public health codes for public aquatic facilities and changing program needs.
Note: Changes to data collection or entry can preclude analysis of trends over time.
Limit each data field to one individual inspection item. Facilitates data analysis and interpretation.
Set value limits for data entry for each individual inspection item (e.g., provide a drop-down menu). Reduces data entry errors and facilitates data analysis.
Provide a unique identifier for each aquatic facility. Generates a violation history for each aquatic facility.
Provide a unique identifier (e.g., permit number) for each aquatic venue (e.g., pool, spa) at an aquatic facility. Generates a violation history for each aquatic venue.
Provide a unique identifier for each inspection of each aquatic venue (i.e., do not include multiple venues in one inspection record). Facilitates data analysis by inspection.
Specify aquatic facility setting (e.g., hotel/motel or waterpark). Allows identification of differences in operation and maintenance by aquatic facility setting.
Specify venue type (e.g., pool or hot tub/spa). Allows identification of differences in operation and maintenance by venue type.
Specify pool type (e.g., wading pool or interactive water play venue). Allows identification of differences in operation and maintenance by pool type.
Specify water location (e.g., indoor or outdoor). Allows identification of differences operation and maintenance by location.
Specify type of inspection conducted (e.g., routine, follow-up, or complaint inspection). Provides census of inspections.
Identify inspector who conducted inspection. Allows identification of differences among inspectors.
Log time required for inspection. Assesses resource requirements.
Specify disinfectant type. Differentiates among disinfectants, which could have different required minimum or maximum concentrations.
Include actual numeric values measured for total and free disinfectant, cyanurate, and pH or note that no reading was taken.
Note: It is important to limit this field to numeric data only (including characters such as “<” or “>” increases the need for data cleaning).
Allows analysis of water quality data and is needed when mandated water quality parameters have minimum or maximum concentrations with different public health implications. Note: Total and free disinfectant levels can be used to calculate combined disinfectant levels.
Specify if each inspection item was found to be in compliance, out of compliance, not observed, or not applicable. Allows determination of the number of inspections in the denominator of the proportions of inspections with identified violations. Proportions can be used to track trends over time.
Specify inspection outcome (e.g., immediate closure). Provides census of inspection outcomes.
Specify which violation(s) led to immediate closure, if inspection resulted in immediate closure. Provides census of violations leading to immediate closure.
Standardize inspector notes (e.g., provide a drop-down menu). Facilitates data entry and analysis. Inspector’s notes (e.g., for pH, “pH is too low and needs to be raised”) provide detailed information.
Prioritize data entry for inspection items with the greatest impact on public health (i.e., identification of corresponding violations could result in immediate closure because the violations represent a serious threat to public health), If data entry is too resource intensive. Facilitates data entry.
Page last reviewed: December 23, 2021