About the National Water Safety Management Programme (NWSMP)

NWSMP: Supporting Employers/Volunteers, Protecting Employees/Volunteers

The NWSMP is a suite of interlinked training awards, specifically designed to assist those organisations with employees who work in, on or near water, to meet their civil and statutory safety management obligations (especially where employees have supervisory responsibilities).

It is endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive for its sensible, proportionate, reasonable and balanced advice to both those responsible for groups around the water margin, or workers operating in, on or near water and in particular, managing the risk from operating around the water margin.

The Programme has also been endorsed by the Outdoor Education Advisory Panel and Expedition Providers’ Association and was developed in close consultation with a number of relevant and key leading bodies including:

  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Expedition Providers’ Association
  • Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
  • Devon & Cornwall Police
  • Institute of Outdoor Learning
  • National Open Water Coaching Association
  • The Scouts Association
  • Outdoor Education Advisory Panel

Many people working near the water margins, receive minimal or no water safety training due to it often taking a back seat, when compared to more traditional and recognised health and safety training. Through consultation with industry and lead bodies, RLSS UK identified this gap in water safety training provision and launched NWSMP to close that gap, thus improving water safety across a wide range of working environments and operational sectors.

Who is it for?

Teachers, Technicians, Outdoor Activity Instructors, Countryside Rangers, Community Safety Wardens, Dock Workers, Construction Workers, the Emergency Services, Security Staff – everyone and anyone who works in, on or near water.


The NWSMP allows employers to construct relevant and meaningful training programmes by selecting and linking together those modules most suited to specific operational and individual needs. The programme recognises the need for flexibility, providing individual programmes which meet a wide range of training requirements across a broad spectrum of working environments.

Balancing Prevention and Response

The NWSMP programme embraces contemporary approaches to risk management by balancing the need for simple proactive safety management practices, with a strong focus on preventative measures, including effective emergency response skills.

Flexible Modular Framework relevant to a wide range of sectors

The NWSMP is built around a modular framework, this enables employers to construct relevant and bespoke water safety training programmes by selecting the modules best-suited to their operational or individual needs.

To do a National Water Safety Management Programme click here!

Aims of the NWSMP

The aims of the NWSMP are to:

  • Equip anyone working in, on or near water with essential knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about managing safety
  • Enable group leaders to deliver safer activity at open water sites
  • Develop occupational water safety skills for employees/volunteers working around the water margins
  • Facilitate compliance with Statutory and Civil obligations, especially the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 with related regulations and covering Safe Systems of Work
  • Develop effective Emergency Response Skills for those working in a water-based environment

NWSMP Syllabus

Level 1 – Compulsory (Dry Based, i.e. candidates don’t actually get in the water)

For those working or supervising near water who do not have a definite intention to get into the water, e.g. a School Teacher taking a group on a field trip.

Course Duration: six hours comprising of:

Two hours Self Study – knowledge based

Four hours Guided Learning (with a teacher) – interactive sessions

Level 2 (Low level water activity up to approx. thigh height)

For those who have a greater likelihood of getting closer to or in the water but with a definite intention to stay within standing depth, e.g. Construction Worker or Ranger working at the margins, teacher taking pupils rock pooling, pond dipping, etc.

Candidates MUST complete and pass Level 1 before undertaking Level 2. It is split into THREE different environments: Beach, River and Still Water.

Course Duration: three hours PER Environment

Level 3 (In-Water Rescue aimed at PROGRAMMED activities, but NOT free swimming as this would require the NVBLQ qualification)

For those with clients/people under their supervision, who might be swimming out of their depth, e.g. Outdoor Pursuit Instructor leading a deep water activity session, or those leading/supervising programmed open water activities, e.g. canoeing, kayaking, relays, etc.

Candidates must complete and pass Levels 1 and 2 before undertaking Level 3. Practiced in the water this level involves being able to do a 30m contact rescue and a 15m contact tow

Course Duration: two hours

 The award lasts for two years. 

Optional Bolt-On Modules

Aquatic Personal Protective Clothing (APPE)

Teaches how to competently use a buoyancy aid, lifejacket, wetsuit and dry suit, and to understand the APPE Regulations relating to inspection and servicing.

Course Duration: four hours

Occupational Flood Safety

Covers a range of topics including associated hazards and risks, drowning prevention, comprehensive Water Safety Management Plans and safety measures when working near water, legal issues and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Course Duration: four hours

NWSMP Swimming Pool Safety Award

Designed to equip and educate teachers and activity leaders when taking groups away overseas, enabling them to supervise groups of people in a pool environment, e.g. at their hotel. It is not to be used in the UK if the pool has no lifeguards and falls into the category of requiring them.

Course Duration: four hours

All three of the bolt-on modules last for two years.

To do a National Water Safety Management Programme click here!

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