This guidance is aimed at trainer assessors or instructors arranging or delivering RLSS UK training or assessment. 

What is it?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition and one of the main causes of seizures. A seizure occurs when sudden uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity disrupt normal impulses that control brain function. Seizures are regarded as partial, with no loss of consciousness, or generalised, where consciousness is lost. Seizures can develop because of congenital factors or may be acquired, for example, following injury. The duration of seizures can vary from a few seconds to several minutes.

Over 500,000 people in the UK have epilepsy. That’s around 1 in 100 people.

What do I need to know? 

Not everyone with epilepsy has the same level of risk. If seizures are controlled, the candidate may not be any more risk than a person who doesn’t have epilepsy. Whereas if a person is still having seizures, they may be at higher risk.

Because there is always the possibility that a seizure could occur, it is important that, as a trainer, instructor or course/activity organiser, you do not underestimate the potential risks. 

You must ask the candidate to seek advice from their doctor or nurse, encouraging them to discuss the specific training, assessment, or activities they intend to complete, their seizure type and frequency, and any other factors that could affect safety when swimming. A copy of this consent from their GP or nurse should be given to the course trainer, instructor, or course/activity organiser in advance of the start of the course or assessment and should set out any special measures that may be needed. 

As part of supporting the candidate, it is recommended that instructors or trainers provide a copy of the syllabus to the candidate for review by their GP or nurse to make a decision. 

In addition, and in line with guidance from the International Life Saving Federation, any participant in aquatic rescue activities must meet the following criteria:

  • Lifesaving/lifeguarding training should be available to individuals with epilepsy who have confident seizure control, treatment programme compliance, knowledge of their risk, and a seizure-free period of at least six months. 

Open Water and Coastal Water

Immersion in hot or cold water is known as one of the most common stimuli for seizures. Therefore, training or assessment in open water or coastal water can increase the risk of a seizure, even when the individual seizures are controlled. Extra consideration should be given to the candidate’s safety, including: 

  • Ensuring correspondence between the candidate and their GP or nurse includes details of open water immersion.
  • Additional safety provisions are needed when the candidate is in open water. e.g. supervision within arm’s reach, tow flat, PFD, etc.

Those employing individuals who are diagnosed with epilepsy should consult with their HR team/manager/advisor for more information. 


Epilepsy Action
Epilepsy Action. Sports and leisure
Epilepsy Action. Work
Swim England. Epilepsy and swimming
Epilepsy Society
Epilepsy Foundation. Seizures in water 

Click here for the International Life Saving Society Position Statement on Seizures and Epilepsy