Swimming pool supervision

Date published: 10 March 2022

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HSENI are aware of a number of incidents which have resulted in the need for pool users to be rescued by the on duty Lifeguard.

As such, HSENI is taking the opportunity to remind those who have any involvement with the operation and management of health and safety in swimming pools of the guidance document 'Health and Safety in swimming pools and draw particular attention to the requirements for pool side supervision. You can download a free copy at the link below:

Constant poolside supervision (watching the water) by lifeguards provides the best assurance of pool users’ safety. Where the site specific risk assessment has shown that constant poolside supervision is not reasonably practicable, robust, alternative measures must be implemented to ensure the safety of pool users.

It is the responsibility of the pool operator to ensure that there are enough lifeguards and that they are competent, effectively organised and diligent in their duties. This should be addressed in the risk assessment and also includes assessing whether hirers of pools have made effective and safe arrangements for supervision.

When you assess the need for supervision you should consider:

  • local circumstances;
  • the pool structure and equipment; and
  • the way the pool is used and the characteristics of those who may use it.

You must ensure that lifeguards are:

  • sufficient in number;
  • adequately trained and competent to carry out their assigned tasks;
  • effectively organised; and
  • supervised to ensure they are diligent.

For programmed activities: Suitably competent teachers and coaches may take responsibility, both for supervision and teaching/coaching of their class/squad.

Following risk assessment, this may allow the reduction in the number of Lifeguards at the poolside. However, where only one lifeguard is on duty at the poolside there should be adequate means, such as an assistance alarm, for summoning support rapidly to the pool area. This is essential where a single lifeguard is involved in an in-water rescue. The remaining swimmers are no longer supervised until backup lifeguards/staff arrive and the recovery of a casualty from the water often requires at least two people.

HSENI will be carrying out spot checks of pool safety management in the near future. Please ensure that all the necessary paperwork is available and the appropriate management and supervision is in place as per your risk assessments.

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