Everywhere we look technology is developing; self-service checkouts, driverless cars, voice recognition devices, face/iris recognition systems, video assistant referee, lifesaving drones, and much more. Technology entered the world of swimming pools around 20 years ago and has developed and expanded more recently. There are now several systems available in the UK and Ireland, designed to support lifeguards, improve safety, and recognise someone in difficulty in the water.

Current guidance for technology in Swimming Pools

Health and Safety Executive publication ‘Health and Safety in Swimming Pools’ states the following and can be found here.

Using technology to aid observation

There is a wide range of devices and systems that are available to help lifeguards observing a pool. Equipment extends from convex mirrors that increase the field of view where there are small obstructions to active computerised detection that will identify a body on the pool basin floor.

While these technologies have their limitations, they have helped lifeguards identify potential drowning accidents they had not observed.

These systems are not intended to reduce observation and monitoring by lifeguards unless a suitable and sufficient risk assessment demonstrates that you can maintain at least the same level of risk control that would be provided by a lifeguard.’

RLSS UK takes a balanced view and supports the use of technology within commercial/public swimming pools to assist lifeguards in monitoring and supervising swimming pool users, to intercept incidents of swimmers, ill health, and ultimately prevent drownings. 

RLSS UK does not currently endorse any particular system and has provided this page to give you an overview of the systems available.

When choosing to use technology, RLSS UK advises Operators to:

  • Carefully consider systems available to ensure any system chosen is fit for purpose and suitable for the swimming pool facilities and environment
  • Review and update risk assessments regarding swimming pool supervision
  • Complete Lifeguard Zone Visibility Tests to ensure all swimming pool areas can be clearly supervised
  • Review and update Pool Safety Operating Procedures regarding swimming pool supervision and dealing with swimming pool emergencies
  • Ensure procedures and systems are in place for times when technology fails and cannot be used
  • Ensure training for the system is provided by the manufacturer
  • Provide training for all employees that will use the system, check competency before use and ongoing to ensure employees are using technology correctly

Technology systems

Systems currently fall into the following categories:

Drowning detection systems

Detection systems have cameras installed either in the swimming pool, overhead, or a combination of both. The cameras and computer software monitors activity and tracks swimmer patterns in order to recognise when a swimmer is in difficulty. It will then raise an alarm to indicate to a lifeguard that someone needs immediate assistance.

These systems do vary, from spotting a swimmer in difficulty to only spotting a swimmer when they are motionless on the bottom of the pool. These systems relay an image or images to a lifeguard and show specifically where in the swimming pool the swimmer in difficulty has been identified.

Personal wearable drowning detection systems

Swimmers wear a wrist band or other device with sensors that monitor their movement in the swimming pool. A sensor will detect a period of static movement for a prolonged period under the

water and raise an alarm to indicate to a lifeguard that someone needs immediate assistance. Some systems sound an alarm when the device passes below a certain depth of water and does not return to the surface after a period of time.

These systems rely on the swimmers wearing the personal detection device throughout their use of the swimming pool(s).

Underwater and overhead cameras

These systems include underwater and overhead cameras that provide lifeguards with a view of part or the whole of their zone. These systems are frequently used to provide lifeguards with the visibility of a blind spot or area that they cannot physically see. For example, behind a water feature or a particularly deep part of water or where there is excessive glare on the surface.

Camera CCTV Systems tend to be linked to a screen that the lifeguard can view when lifeguarding. The screen will give the lifeguard a view of part or all of their zone. These systems do not raise an alarm automatically.

RLSS UK does not give a view on particular systems, however, to provide the support we have created the below table detailing an overview of systems available, as provided by each manufacturer. If you require more information, please click on each system.