First Aid needs assessment, and the RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ)

HSG 179 outlines that first-aiders may need additional training in, for example, the treatment of drowning or the use of a spine board and defibrillator. This document also states that: ‘the training undertaken by pool lifeguards will generally cover or surpass that required under the first aid regulations where the lifeguard attends regular ongoing training and competency assessment.’
The RLSS UK NPLQ covers all elements of Pool Rescue Techniques (including drowning and spinal cord injury management), Lifeguarding Theory, First Aid and CPR. The course is physically demanding and will include swimming to set times, lifting casualties and diving to the deepest part of the swimming pool. Training and assessment for the NPLQ are in three sections, and the candidate must successfully pass all areas to attain the qualification.

Section 1 – The Lifeguard and the Law, Swimming Pool Supervision
Element 1 – The Lifeguard and the Law
Element 2 – Swimming Pool, Hazards, and Control Measures
Element 3 – Swimming Pool Supervision

Section 2 – Intervention and Rescue and Emergency Action Plans
Element 1 – Intervention and Rescue
Element 2 – Rescue of a Casualty with a Suspected Spinal Injury
Element 3 – Emergency Action Plan

Section 3 – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, AED, and First Aid
Element 1 – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
Element 2 – First Aid
Element 3 – Automated External Defibrillation (AED)

The following link outlines more details of the RLSS UK NPLQ 

RLSS UK guidance - maximum poolside working times and lifeguard rotation

Maximum poolside working times

To help lifeguards remain alert and taintain a good level of supervision at all times, the RLSS UK recommends that:

  • Lifeguards rotate positions every 15, 20 or 30 minutes and spend no more than 30 minutes in one static position.
  • Lifeguards spend no longer than 60 minutes at the poolside and ,in exceptional circumstances, no longer than 90 minutes in the pool hall itself.

The above guidance can be found in the RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification Gen 10 (First Edition, First Revision 2023) candidate manual, section 1 on page 84.*

*Please note from July 2023 – Dec 2023, there is a transition period between NPLQ Generation 9 and NPLQ Gen 10, so 2 publications are in circulation. For further information, please contact RLSS UK.

Lifeguard Zone Visibility Test (LZVT)

Many pool operators will complete an LZVT to work out the best position for lifeguards to manage swimming pool hazards and to ensure high visibility of zones for lifeguards. An LZVT carried out for each type of session set-up will identify the appropriate lifeguard positions and may impact lifeguard numbers where blind spots or poor visibility have been identified.

 Purpose of an LZVT

  • To ensure lifeguards have 100% visibility within their zone (full volume of pool water from top to bottom with no blind spots).
  • To identify or review lifeguard positions (including the use of highchairs or standing) and numbers.
  • To be used as part of the Risk Assessment process to consider possible additional control measures, e.g., lighting, blinds, glare film and technology.
  • To use findings to update the PSOP and lifeguard induction.
  • To ensure that the system for supervising swimming pools as per the NPLQ is followed.

How to carry out an LZVT

When carrying out an LZVT, it is advisable to involve the lifeguard team to gain the most comprehensive results and feedback. This also has the added benefit that lifeguards will learn the importance of their lifeguard positions and zones and understand how these are identified.

Equipment required

  • Floats or similar items to mark out the pool to create a grid reference that mirrors the plan of the pool (record template).
  • Plan of the pool, with grid reference and with the current lifeguard positions marked.
  • Manikin – preferably skin colour (wearing shorts).
  • Rope to move the manikin.
  • Lifeguard highchair (if applicable).

For best results, complete the LZVT at various times that would include:

  • When there are normal daylight hours
  • When artificial light conditions are in use
  • With different session set-ups, e.g., lane swimming or inflatable session.
  • With pool features on and off, where applicable, e.g., leisure pool.

How to complete an LZVT

  • Mark out the pool in 2m²
  • Position the manikin in each square and record if the manikin is visible from the current lifeguard position(s). The manikin should be dragged through each row twice, from one side to the other and back.
  • Ensure that the manikin is visible within the whole 2m² area – this is especially important when the area is along the poolside (At each end/side/corner the manikin should be placed against the wall).
  • Record the findings on the plan of the pool (record template).
  • Complete the exercise for each area identified within your entire pool.

For further support on completing an LZVT, please watch the following video found here

Action / Outcomes

Once the LZVT has been completed, it may have identified areas where 100% visibility of the lifeguard zone has not been achieved. If this is the case, then corrective action will need to occur that either result in:

  • Lifeguard positions are being changed to ensure 100% visibility of their zone.
  • Additional control measures are put in place to ensure 100% visibility of their zone.

Once 100% visibility has been achieved then record the completed LZVT. It is advisable to detail:

  • Date and time of completed LVZT(s)
  • Who completed the LZVT(s) and signature
  • The venue name
  • Swimming pool name (e.g main pool)
  • Weather
  • Lighting conditions
  • Test number

Depending on the facility you may need to include additional information such as:

  • The relevant pool water conditions which affect water clarity.
  • The artificial light conditions.
  • Any blinds or window tints (electronic or manual present).
  • Any technology relied on to aid supervision.
  • Any pool users in the water at the assessment time.
  • Any floating leisure or inflatable play equipment in the water.
  • Water features such as waterfalls, water slides, water cannons etc. on at the time of assessment.
  • Any foliage blocking natural light in the swimming pool

Once the LZVT(s) has been completed the PSOP will need to be updated. It is then recommended that re-training and competency checks of staff occur prior to any changes to lifeguard positioning or any additional control measures being put in place.

Sample Ongoing Training and Competency Assessment (OTCA) for Pool Lifeguards

The RLSS UK has produced a sample OTCA for pool lifeguards, available to all its Approved Training Centres, that can train and assess the RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification.

The sample OTCA for Pool Lifeguards has six session plans of two hours each with supporting lesson plans. The full document contains the following:

A. 6 session Ongoing Training and Competency Assessment Plan

A comprehensive scheme of work detailing content for sessions 1-6 that include:- 

  • The lifeguard, swimming pool and supervision
  • CPR, AED, and First Aid
  • Intervention, Rescue and Emergency Action Plan

B. Session Plans

Lesson plan for sessions 1-6 giving comprehensive detail on how to deliver content linking with each facility’s site-specific Normal Operating Procedures and Emergency Action Plan.

C. Incident matrix

The selection of early and later intervention incidents - to be used in sessions one, three and five. Incidents include using the whole team, i.e., the Duty Manager, receptionist, and plant engineers. Blank form to produce a site-specific matrix.

D. Attendance registers

Register a competency record for lifeguards attending Ongoing T&C.

E. Individual Ongoing Training and Competency Assessment Record

Individual Ongoing T&CA record for each member of staff who performs lifeguard duties produced automatically by the T&CA online database.

F. Ongoing Training and Competency Assessment Managers Wall Chart

Wall chart for managers displaying Ongoing T&CA records for all staff who perform lifeguard duties and National Pool Lifeguard Qualification expiry dates and date of induction date completed (if required).

G. New starter and return to work Competency Assessment

Lifeguard Competency Assessment sheet for any prospective new employee who holds a current NPLQ (or for an employee returning to work after an absence of more than one month).

The content of the six-session plans is detailed below:

System for Supervising Swimming Pools (previously 10:20)

Prior to July 2023, RLSS UK Pool Lifeguard qualifications included a technique called 10:20 that lifeguards followed to supervise swimming pools.

In July 2023, RLSS UK launched a new NPLQ (Gen 10) and following extensive research, replaced 10:20 with
Natural Scan : 20. The following is found within the NPLQ Gen 10 syllabus:

System for Supervising Swimming Pools (Natural Scan : 20)

There are various systems used worldwide by lifeguards to supervise swimming pools. RLSS UK has conducted research to develop a system to give lifeguards the best opportunity to supervise a swimming pool/zone and identify hazards.

If you have any questions or need any help and support with the content of this page, please email [email protected].

Last updated: December 2023