Version: 1
Last updated: May 2024

Click here to download this RLSS UK Guidance Statement


Throughout the UK and Ireland, more operators are choosing to keep their outdoor pools and lidos open during the winter months. As these pools are often not heated, this guidance is aimed at supporting operators when providing lifeguard supervision to ensure the safety of those expected to supervise the sessions and enter the pool to perform a rescue, as well as those swimming. 

This guidance may also support operators who manage outdoor pools and lidos that are not heated and in use from spring when the air temperature is still low. 

Lifeguard Uniform

The clothing and footwear selected must be appropriate for the lifeguard's role and in line with HSG179 paragraphs 148-150. Clothing should not hamper the effectiveness of in-water rescue. Cold weather conditions should be taken into account when the lifeguard is providing supervision but also when they are required to enter the water.

Consideration should be given to the type of clothing or suit the lifeguard would wear during the supervision of a swimming pool in cold conditions.

  • Wetsuits - Wetsuits can be restrictive during rescue and whilst in a seated lifeguard position; therefore, the correct wetsuit should be selected and must fit correctly. Consideration needs to be given to the thickness of the wetsuit; 3/4mm may be a starting point, but it will depend on the environment. The thicker the wetsuit the more restrictive they can be. 

  • Weatherproof jackets or trousers – whilst lifeguards might perceive layers and jackets/trousers to provide warmth and protection from wind, rain etc., jackets and trousers will hinder a lifeguard's ability to swim and move through the water as they are not designed to be worn in the water. Operators may consider removing zips and allowing lifeguards to wear a jacket without fastening it so it can be removed quickly in the event of an emergency. 

  • Blankets- lifeguards can be provided with warm, thick blankets to help provide warmth when lifeguarding and the blanket can be discarded when the lifeguard needs to perform a rescue. 

Following a rescue, the operator should consider the employee, and it is recommended that spare uniform/ warm clothing is available; this may mean the individual brings additional clothing to their shift. The operator should provide towels or other means that will enable an employee to warm up and dry quickly.

Exposure to Weather Conditions

Reducing a lifeguard’s exposure to weather conditions is essential to ensure that their vision and concentration are maintained and not obscured. Shelters can be used to prevent rain, snow, wind, and other weather conditions from causing visibility issues; however, maximum visibility should still be available from the lifeguard’s position within shelters. Additionally, portable heating appliances, such as gas heaters may need to be provided in cold conditions so that the lifeguard can maintain concentration at all times.

There will be conditions where the swimming pool will need to be closed due to weather conditions, for example, electrical storms or high winds. The Emergency Action Plan (EAP) should detail when the pool will be closed due to weather conditions.


Warm drinks may be provided in non-breakable containers.

Cold Water Swimming Training

Performing rescues in cold water is safer if the lifeguard is exposed to cold water regularly. More frequent exposure to cold water will help lifeguards acclimatise and reduce the effects of cold water on their breathing and movement.

Lifeguards should:

  • Swim in cold water at a supervised venue regularly.
  • Practice swimming and rescue techniques in their wetsuit/drysuit/uniform.
  • Understand the dangers of cold water swimming and potential conditions such as cold water shock.

Medical Conditions – Employee

An additional declaration should be obtained for employees who have medical conditions that may be affected by cold water, such as heart conditions or epilepsy. 

Lifeguard Training

During the cold weather months (October-April), ongoing training plans may need to be altered to include cold water training, for example, short-term cold water exposure. Rescues would likely be short in duration, and therefore, a lifeguard’s exposure toleration may not need to be more than 10 minutes.

Rotational Pattern

Lifeguard rotations may need to be reduced to help maintain concentration but should remain in line with the guidance issued by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK). Operators could also consider patrolling positions rather than static positions; Lifeguard Zone Visibility Tests (LZVTs) will need to be completed for any alternative positions. 


Health and safety in swimming pools - HSG179 ( 

Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools