Ombudsman probes regulation of licensed swimming pools by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
28 February 2023
The Ombudsman, Ms Winnie Chiu, today (28 February) announced the launch of a direct investigation to examine the regulation of licensed swimming pools by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (“FEHD”).
As at June 2022, there were 1,371 licensed swimming pools across the territory. The Swimming Pools Regulation under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance stipulates that licensees shall comply with the Regulation and licensing conditions imposed by the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene, which include ensuring that the equipment and water quality of the pool are maintained to the prescribed standards, and that a sufficient number of qualified life-saving attendants are on duty during the opening hours of the pool. The FEHD regulates licensed swimming pools by conducting routine inspections and handling relevant complaints so as to safeguard public health and safety.
There have been media reports from time to time on drowning accidents in licensed swimming pools. The Office’s preliminary inquiries found that the FEHD has not put in place a notification mechanism for accidents that occur in licensed swimming pools. Unless an accident has been reported by the media or made known through other means, the FEHD would not learn of a serious accident in a swimming pool under its regulation. Furthermore, between 2017 and June 2022, the FEHD received 470 complaints related to licensed swimming pools.
Ms Chiu said, “As the licensing authority, the FEHD has the responsibility to ensure that licensed swimming pools comply with the Regulation and licensing conditions, especially those pertaining to swimmers’ safety. If the FEHD has no idea about whether a serious accident has occurred in a licensed swimming pool, it can hardly conduct investigation or take follow-up actions to find out if the licensee has breached the Regulation and rectified the problem(s), and to review whether the licensing conditions are appropriate. Therefore, I have decided to launch a direct investigation to probe the FEHD’s regulation of licensed swimming pools, including the Department’s mechanism for approving applications for a new swimming pool licence and licence renewal, as well as its procedures for inspecting swimming pools and complaint handling. We would also examine the adequacy and effectiveness of the FEHD’s current measures for ensuring hygiene of swimming pools and protecting swimmers’ safety. Recommendations for improvement would be made where necessary.”
The Ombudsman is collecting information and views on the above topic. Members of the public can provide information and their views in writing to the Office of The Ombudsman by 28 March 2023:
Address: 30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre, 168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Office of The Ombudsman
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