HEALTH AND SAFETY MANUAL: SWIMMING POOLS
SCHOOL USE SWIMMING POOLS
Arrangements for safety during swimming
EAP contents list
Qualifications of adult supervisors
Instructions for pupils and their behaviour
The Lesson – organisation and precautions
Use of school pool by other groups
Hire of pool to outside organisations
p. 11 - 14
Extracts from “Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools”
SAFETY IN SWIMMING
ARRANGEMENTS FOR LESSONS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE DORSET
This document sets out the duties of care during swimming lessons and extra-curricular
sessions run by schools in Dorset Education Authority. These are work activities and within
the scope of the Health and Safety Work Etc Act 1974
Required documentation – Any school involved in the delivery of swimming must have
written or be provided with three key documents:
A Normal Operating Plan (NOP)
An Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
A Risk Assessment for swimming.
If you own your own pool you must draft your own NOP and EAP and give a copy of these
guidelines to all users. If you use a pool offsite you must get a copy of their NOP and EAP
before you use it. A risk assessment must be carried out by the school in all cases even if
they use another pool and employ coaches to deliver the swimming as it is the school that
has duty of care.
Normal Operating Plan (NOP)
The school should have an operating plan (Normal Operating Plan) on how it intends to
achieve compliance with relevant legislation and Codes of Safe Working Practice.
The (NOP) should cover:
Details of the pool: dimensions and depth, features and equipment and a plan of
the building. The plan of the building may include positions of pool alarms, fire
alarms, emergency exit routes and any other relevant information.
Potential risk: an appreciation of the main hazards and of users particularly at risk is
required before safe operating procedures can be identified.
Dealing with the public: arrangements for communicating safety messages to
customers, customer care, poolside rules for the public and for lifeguards, controlling
Lifeguards’ duties and responsibilities and special supervision requirements for
equipment, etc; lifeguard training; and numbers of lifeguards for particular activities.
including lines of supervision, call-out procedures, work rotation
and maximum poolside working times.
controlling access to a pool intended to be out of use
including the safe use of pool covers.
Detailed work instructions: including pool cleaning procedures, safe setting up and
checking of equipment, diving procedures and setting up of pool galas.
ratio of adults: pupils, qualifications of adults etc
First–aid supplies and training: including equipment required, its location,
arrangements for checking it, first aiders, first-aid training etc.
Details of alarm systems and any emergency equipment, maintenance
arrangements: all alarm systems, and emergency equipment provided, including
operation, location, action to be taken on hearing the alarm, testing arrangements
Conditions of hire to outside organisations. (See point 13 for a checklist).
Emergency Action Plan
The Emergency Action Plan should cover the action to be taken in the event of an
emergency, including who needs to do what when. For example, in the event of a pupil going
unconscious in the water who affects the rescue? Who evacuates the rest of the swimmers?
Who sends for the ambulance? Etc. Consideration should be given to action to be taken in
the event of a foreseeable emergency, for example:
disorderly behaviour (including violence to staff)
lack of water clarity (no swimming should take place if the bottom of the pool cannot
outbreak of fire (or sounding of the alarm to evacuate the building)
structural failure (if indoor)
emission of toxic gases
serious injury to a bather
discovery of a casualty in the water
The procedure should make it clear, if it becomes necessary, how to clear the water or
evacuate the building. Just as fire drills are routinely practised so should pool
evacuations be practised to make sure everyone is familiar with the safety protocols.
To ensure the effectiveness of emergency procedures, management should ensure
all staff are adequately trained in such procedures
notices are displayed to advise the general public of the arrangements
exit doors, signs, fire fighting equipment and break glass call points where provided,
should be checked regularly to ensure they are kept free from obstruction
all fire exit doors are operable without the aid of a key at all times the premises are
Risk Assessment for Bathing Activities (Management of Health and Safety
Regulations 1999 reg 3). A risk assessment should cover the following areas:
Identify the Hazards
Inadequate or inappropriate supervision;
Prior health problems (e.g. heart trouble, impaired hearing or sight, epilepsy)
Alcohol or food before swimming;
Youth and inexperience (half of those who drown are under the age of 15);
Weak or non-swimmers straying out of their depth;
Unauthorised access to pools intended to be out of use;
Diving or jumping into insufficient depth of water (leading to concussion, or injury to
head or spine);
Environmental hazards; high sides, cracked paving, slippery floors etc
Unruly behaviour and misuse of equipment;
Unclear pool water, preventing casualties from being seen;
Absence of, or inadequate response by, life guards in an emergency.
Who might be harmed
Persons using the pool and pupils/students participating in swimming lessons and
Is risk adequately controlled
Guidance is given in this Dorset Education Authority’s booklet ‘Arrangements for managing
safety during swimming ’, covering:
supervision of lessons by trained adult supervisors
necessary training for adult supervisors
abilities of trained adult supervisors to enter water to effect rescue
swimmers with known medical conditions, including epilepsy, to be under direct
prohibition of unsupervised swimming
prohibition of diving except as given.
Further action necessary
Distribution of the arrangements to all education establishments and managers of joint user
There is broadly a distinction between:
care during the conduct of the lesson, including poolside supervision. This remains
at all times with teaching staff controlling the lesson, and;
the duty to provide a safe pool environment and water condition, which lies with the
pool operator. This may be the school’s responsibility where it is their pool (or
another school if they use the pool of another school), or outside agency.
These responsibilities need to be properly recognised where schools use pools provided
under Joint Use Agreements. In these instances teaching staff are responsible for their
pupils at all times and they are responsible for seeing that adequate pool side supervision
(life guards) is provided for the lesson.
Joint use pool managers may have life guards on their staff but agreement must be reached
on an individual basis with the pool manager if their staff are to be used to provide poolside
supervision during lesson time. This is quite acceptable, but a charge is likely to be made to
the school for this service.
QUALIFICATIONS OF TEACHERS AND ADULT SUPERVISORS
recommended that the teacher responsible for swimming holds the Amateur
Swimming Association Teacher’s Certificate or the County Swimming Certificate.
At all times one adult, trained to the required life saving standard, must be present
on the poolside who is responsible for poolside supervision. (See next section).
For non-curriculum use (Community Use) the minimum standard is a qualified
lifeguard who has a valid “Pool Lifeguard” Certificate (see point 2 c. below). They
must also have a thorough knowledge of the Pool Safety Operating Procedure for
The key document “Managing Health and Safety in Swimming Pools” (HSE 1999) states the
“If the pool meets one or more criteria from the following list, it is necessary for constant pool
supervision by a qualified lifeguard to be provided:
♦ the pool has water deeper than 1.5m (1m DCC policy see 6.1)
♦ the pool water area is greater than 170 m2;
♦ diving from the poolside is allowed;
♦ there is poolside equipment or a feature posing additional risk;
♦ there are abrupt changes in depth;
♦ it is not practicable to enforce house rules for safe behaviour;
♦ access is not restricted;
♦ The pool will be used by unaccompanied children under 15 years of age
♦ Crowded conditions are expected;
♦ Activities take place or equipment is used which can lead to additional risks
through the high excitement generated;”
In the light of experience and amateur swimming and life-guarding association’s
advice, Dorset County Council’s Guidance is that the minimum standard of poolside
supervision shall be:
TWO adult supervisors present on the poolside one of whom should have a
currently valid recognised life saving qualification. This person must remain on
poolside at all times that the class is in the water, except to assist in emergency. The
only exception to this requirement is for pools which are less than 1m deep and less
than 170m2. In these circumstances neither of the adults supervising require a valid
lifeguard qualification (although it is strongly recommended), BUT one of them
must be able to carry out CPR if required. TWO adults are deemed to be the
minimum requirement because in the event of a serious emergency with an
unconscious casualty in the water, one adult will have to enter the water to
effect the rescue whilst the other adult calls for an ambulance from poolside
and supervises the other pupils getting out of the water.
Recognised life saving qualifications include the following:
a. The Dorset County Life Saving Certificate, (only valid in Dorset Schools for
structured lessons or extra-curricular activities operated by the school i.e. no
leisure “free for all” type sessions or members of the public allowed)
b. National Swimming Teachers Rescue Test (minimum 12 hours training, valid
nationally for structured lessons or extra-curricular activities operated by the
school i.e. no leisure “free for all” type sessions or members of the public
c. Pool Life Guard (minimum 38 hours training, valid nationally and covers all pool
situations only i.e. not valid for open water)
d. Bronze medallion (minimum 24 hours training valid for open water only not
e. Beach Life Guard (minimum 40 hours training valid for open water only).
All the above qualifications are valid for 2 years. These details were correct at the time of
printing but are revised on a regular basis. See appendix 2 for further information.
The absolute maximum ratio of swimmers per adult supervisor is 20:1. 2 adults
could therefore supervise 40 pupils. Larger groups must have additional adult
supervisors present on the poolside e.g. 41 pupils require 3 adults. However, the
ratio of adults to pupils may need to be higher depending on the age and ability of the
pupils and where beginners are involved 12:1 is recommended as the maximum
ratio. Some pupils with Special Educational Needs may need 1:1. (See medical
considerations section 9).
Where other helpers are used in the water by the teacher in charge, for
example to give tuition or assist non swimmers, then they must be additional
to the adult trained supervisor(s) i.e. they do not count towards the adult:pupil
The teacher in charge of the lesson must be able to account for all swimmers, for
example by making a head count immediately before and after the lesson. They
must also check the pool bottom before leaving the poolside.
All adult supervisors must know any ‘in-house’ procedures or restrictions in effect for
the pool they use, i.e. the NOP and EAP and know:-
location of nearest available telephone
identity of trained first aiders
location of first aid box, resuscitation aids
location of rescue aids, ropes, poles, buoyancy aids.
Teachers remain responsible for their charges at all times, including when they are in
the changing room.
Unsupervised swimming, that is swimming when no lifeguards are present, is not
to be allowed, whether for pupils or staff.
INSTRUCTION FOR PUPILS AND THEIR BEHAVIOUR
The class should know any emergency signal and have practised the action they are
to take just as they would practise a fire drill e.g. one long blast of the whistle
to clear the pool; It is recommended that schools adopt the one short blast and
one long blast national protocols.
The nationally recognised use of whistles at pools is as follows:
♦ One blast – attention of pool users
♦ Two blast – attention of another lifeguard
♦ Three blasts – indicates that a lifeguard is taking emergency action
♦ One long blast – attention of pool users to clear the pool
Pupils should know that they are to obey instructions given to them by supervising
adults, and how to react on emergency instructions.
Warnings against running or other irresponsible behaviour should be given and repeated as
Diving must be supervised by a teacher or coach because of the risk of serious neck or back
injuries if water depth is inadequate.
For teaching a plunge dive (shallow entry) a depth of at least standing height plus arms and
fingers fully extended is advocated. There must be no diving into a water depth of less than
1.8m deep. For a plain header dive the water must be at least 3.5m (12 ft) deep. The area
for formal diving must be clearly defined and controlled. The pool freeboard (distance from
water surface to poolside) should not exceed 0.38m and there should ideally be clearance
ahead of the dive, with the minimum depth of the water maintained, of 7.6m although for
small children this requirement may be reduced.
"Diving and Jumping in Swimming Pools and Open Water Areas" published by the ISRM
contains comprehensive information on diving and deals with a number of aspects of diving
which may have relevance to particular pools and/or situations.
Particular care should be exercised in the case of known sufferers.
The prior written permission of parents should be sought.
They should stay in shallow water unless working with a strong swimmer who can
hold their head above water if a fit occurs. An adult supervisor should keep the pupil
under continuous observation.
INDIVIDUAL DISABLED PUPILS AND ANY WITH MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Disabled is not a precise term. Any person who needs more supervision than that
provided in a normal lesson must be individually considered. For example, those
with conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, heart condition, diabetes, physical
handicap or severely disturbed children.
In swimming lessons for disabled pupils the normal practice is for trained helpers to
be in the water with the pupils on a 1:1 ratio where possible. The teacher
responsible for the teaching of swimming can then direct activities from the poolside.
Should any lack of help or other special circumstances make it necessary for the
teacher to be in the water with the pupil then there must be a trained person
supervising on the poolside who is capable of assisting any person who may get into
difficulty in the water.
Further guidance on a range of medical issues is given in “Safe Practice in PE” by
School pools will be maintained in good order and all defects must be reported to the
property surveyor as soon as is practicable.
Headteachers should ensure that the following items of equipment are always
available to persons using the pool:
A variety of reaching/throwing aids long enough to reach the middle of
the pool for use in an emergency eg reaching poles, ropes, throw bags,
buoyancy aids, floats etc;
a properly stocked first aid box;
an adequate supply of teaching aids suitable for the anticipated ability
level of the pupils (e.g. arm bands, floats, woggles, sink items, toys etc);
dividing ropes to retain groups of children in depth suitable to their swimming
ability if appropriate.
A school telephone, or mobile phone must be accessible on poolside when
the pool is being used so that in the event of an emergency an ambulance
can be summoned immediately
Whistles for use in an emergency.
In pools where the depth of water varies this should be clearly indicated and children
made aware of the varying depths.
When not in use all access doors, gates and windows affording entrance should be
Open air pools must be enclosed by a secure fence.
THE LESSON – ORGANISATION AND PRECAUTIONS
Changing for swimming should be supervised so that it is orderly and children should be
taught to arrange their clothes tidily so that they do not fall onto a wet floor. The teacher
should ensure that children remove all forms of jewellery (rings, St Christopher’s, name
Before entering the bath-side children should be taught a routine of using:-
the shower ( where available)
the footbath (where available)
Research has shown that footbaths can cause more problems than they solve. If you
wish to provide a footbath it must be well maintained and the water regularly changed.
Children with catarrh, sore throats, open sores and foot infections of any kind should be
excluded from the swimming lesson. This requires an inspection before the lesson begins.
Any swimmer with verrucae, in whatever stage of treatment, must have the verrucae
effectively covered. Treatment is not considered effective until the part affected is
completely free of all traces of the plantar wart.
On the poolside clean suitable footwear should be worn – or none at all.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that children:-
WALK on wet surfaces (they are slippery and it is not worth risking a cracked
ENTER the water only when told;
LEAVE the water when told;
are under such control that any possibility of horse-play is obviated;
OBSERVE and OBEY signals and instructions immediately. (If a whistle is
used it should be used very infrequently – the voice and hand movements are
far more effective in obtaining attention and control in normal teaching
The teacher should also develop the habit of taking the following precautionary measures:-
count the number of pupils before they enter the water;
continually examine the pool bottom when the pupils are in the water;
count the number of pupils after they have left the water at the end of the
check the pool bottom when the class has left the water.
At the appropriate stages of “learning to swim” the teacher must ensure that the children are
taught and given ample practice in the following elements of personal safety of
regaining a standing position in shallow water from both prone and supine
floating in various positions;
turning from front to back in various ways;
safe methods of entry into shallow water and water of unknown depths;
any method of using the limbs to produce movement in the water.
Simple life-saving practices could be taught to the more competent swimmers.
USE OF SCHOOL POOL BY THE PTA AND OTHER GROUPS.
Groups, e.g. a PTA, using the pool on a private basis outside normal school hours or during
the holidays are responsible for the safety of all persons authorised and un-authorised who
may be using the pool while the pool is in their charge.
It would therefore be prudent for PTA’s to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken,
e.g. compliance with current codes of safe working practice, to ensure the safety of all those
persons who may use the pool while they – the PTA are in charge. They should therefore
ensure that poolside supervisors and persons in charge of water quality are suitably
The school is responsible for the safety of the structure of the pool and its immediate
surroundings. They will have overall responsibility for the water quality, the school must also
monitor levels of supervision required by the current Code of Safe Working Practice relating
to Safety in Swimming Pools.