Throughout the year the Lifesaving Society receives calls from lifeguards and groups such as schools with questions about lifeguarding events at local lakes, backyard pools or similar facilities. These calls peak in the spring when schools begin planning end of school year outings. The most common questions deal with the certification requirements for the lifeguards.
A common assumption is that if they hire a certified lifeguard for the event, they have done enough to ensure the safety of the participants. Unfortunately, that is not enough. They also must provide a lifeguard system. This system includes the development of specific facility safety and supervision plan, operating and emergency procedures, emergency equipment and training of the lifeguard in the facility's procedures. Lifeguards who work at public aquatic facilities usually receive this training as part of their orientation. When a school or other group hires a lifeguard for an event (i.e. camp), the group and the lifeguard should work together to establish the lifeguard system. Examples of the decisions required include:
- deciding where the participants will swim, how many in the water, marking the boundaries of the swimming area
- identification and provision of emergency equipment
- emergency procedures for the location, including the emergency communication system
- role and orientation of other supervisors such as teachers, group leaders, parents
- lifeguard insurance - solutions include adding a clause in the contract that treats the lifeguard as an employee of the group covered by their liability insurance or National Lifeguards may purchase individual Professional Liability and General Liability Insurance from an insurer.
If the group is not willing to work with a lifeguard to establish the lifeguard system, the Lifesaving Society recommends that the lifeguard refuse to lifeguard the event. For more information about creating the lifeguard system consult the Alert Manual, the Lifesaving Society Public Aquatic Facility Safety Standards and Waterfront Safety Standards.
The National Lifeguard certification is the standard for lifeguarding in Canada.