National Pool Lifeguard Award

National Pool Lifeguard Award



The aim of the IWS, National Pool Lifeguard Award is to enable a candidate to act as a designated lifeguard, trained in Pool Rescue and Basic Life Support techniques. He/She will also have an awareness of First Aid and Pool Water Analysis.


The Pool Lifeguard Award is valid for 2 years and on expiry a revalidation course will need to be completed within a year.  If not revalidated within the year then the full Pool Lifeguard Course will need to be completed again.


Entry Level


Preferred Entry Level


Rescue 2 Award of Irish Water Safety


Minimum Standard Entry Level

Be able to swim 100 metres on front (prone) and 100 metres on back (supine).
Be able to surface dive and recover an object from the deepest part of the pool.

·      Be 16 years of age, or older, at the time of the examination.

Pay the requisite registration fee to IWS.




The specification for the qualification is:


Unit 1 Basic Life Support 1,2 and 3


Unit 2 Lifeguard Skills


Unit 3 Pool Operations


National Pool Lifeguard Certification is awarded at either of two levels.


Level 1 certificates are awarded to those who are judged to be competent to supervise swimming pools or sections of a swimming facility, where the water depth does not exceed 1.5m.


Level 2 certificates are awarded to those who are judged to be competent to supervise areas of water in a swimming facility where depths are greater than 1.5m.


Candidates can upgrade from a Level 1 to a Level 2 award during the validity period of the Level 1 award. Candidates undertaking such an upgrade do not have to complete the entire course.

The holder of a Pool Lifeguard Qualification is qualified and competent to work in a pool associated with the depth specified on their Certificate. If the depth on the certificate is less than 1.5m the Pool Lifeguard can  work in pools up to this depth. If the certificate states greater than 1.5m the Pool Lifeguard can work in a pool of any depth provided they have received pool specific training for their workplace.

Optional modules are available from IWS e.g. Disability Teaching and Pool Plant Operator Certificate. Holders of the IWS National Pool Lifeguard Award are strongly encouraged to undertake further training.


Specific Learning Outcomes


Unit 1 Basic Life Support


The Candidate should be able to:

Complete the relevant worksheets to an acceptable standard
Outline the functions of the respiratory system

·      Identify and outline the role of muscles involved in inspiration and expiration

Describe the process of exchange of gases in the alveoli
Explain the role of the circulatory and nervous systems in the control of breathing
Explain the following terms: tidal volume, inspiratory reserve volume, expiratory reserve volume,
 vital capacity and residual volume
Identify the four main components of the circulatory system
Describe the cardiac cycle
Describe the heart and it’s associated blood vessels

·      Outline the flow of blood through the main vessels of the body

Explain the following terms: pulse, cardiac output and blood pressure
Describe the composition of blood and the function of its particles
Recognise the symptoms of Respiratory Failure
Recognise Cardiac Arrest

·      Demonstrate Basic Life Support (BLS and AED)

·      Demonstrate Oxygen Administration.





Establishing an airway
Turning a subject
Mouth to mouth and mouth to nose resuscitation on adult, child or infant
Effective skills to administer CPR with 1 operator on adult, child or infant
Removal of visible obstructions
Action for vomiting
Aftercare to include recovery position
Techniques for the relief of airway obstruction for conscious/unconscious victims
Techniques for the relief of airway obstruction while dealing with victims, who are

      pregnant or obese

BLS in two-operator mode
AED operation.
Oxygen Administration



Unit 2 Lifeguard Skills – Level 2


The candidate should be able to:

Demonstrate land-based rescues
Demonstrate non-contact rescues
Demonstrate evasive and defensive technique

·      Demonstrate appropriate contact rescues.

·      Demonstrate appropriate releases from Drowning Grips (IWS Rescue 2)

·      Demonstrate methods of towing a subject to safety

Demonstrate deep water resuscitation

·      Explain the principles of assisting a conscious victim out of the pool.

·      Demonstrate techniques for spinal injury management including stabilising,  

      boarding and landing

Describe and demonstrate the use of rescue equipment in pool emergency situations   

      e.g. ring buoys,  reaching poles, etc.

Describe how rescue equipment should be maintained and stored

* Those undertaking a Level 1 qualification are also required to demonstrate the above skills, but the techniques may be demonstrated in shallow water. Shallow water resuscitation must also be demonstrated.


Unit 3 Pool Operations


The candidate should be able to:

Identify the procedures involved in a Normal Operational Plan (NOP) including:

The number, location and function of the lifeguards; pool zoning;
the patrol system and safety checks
Maintaining safe water conditions (including water tests)
An awareness of pool water treatment and testing

Identify the procedures involved in an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) including:

Principles of first aid
Reporting and documenting of incidents

·      Use appropriate communication techniques with colleagues and the general public

      in normal and emergency situations – oral, written and aural

·      Use observation techniques to ensure the safety of all pool users

·      Identify an appropriate course of action to avert dangerous situations in the pool and 

      its surrounds

·      Outline the safety requirements for groups using specialist equipment e.g. sub-aqua,

      canoe polo, aqua aerobics, water polo

·      Outline the safety requirements for groups with special needs e.g. disabled, elderly,


·      Successfully complete a simulated accident situation as outlined by the examiner. (This may also include lifeguarding skills as outlined above.)


* Level 1 candidates can be examined in this section in water depths of 1.5m or less.

    Level 2 candidates and those upgrading from Level 1 to Level 2 must perform the above in water depths of at least 2m.


Course Category Options


Three possible options may apply:


A. Course organised by the IWS Water Safety Area Committee

B. Course organised by an IWS approved Provider.

C. Course may be organised by an IWS approved Organisation.


In all cases the following are the responsibility of the organiser:


a.  Hire of swimming pool

b.  Hire of lecture hall

c.   Insurance cover

d.  Provision of equipment

e.  Application for and payment to Examiners




Course Registration


All National Pool Lifeguard Courses must be registered with:


Irish Water Safety

The Long Walk


Telephone     091-564400

Fax                 091-564700




The National Pool Lifeguard Course Registration Form must be completed and returned at least fourteen days prior to the commencement of the course The Course Organiser must inform the Secretary of the Local Area Committee of the Course details.


Providers will be invoiced for the appropriate amount by IWS HQ at the current rate per candidate. Manuals not used during the course must be returned to HQ to avoid being charged the full amount. 


Minimum Training Hours


The minimum course length for candidates preparing for assessment is 30 hours.

It is acknowledged however that the current ability of candidates will be a determining factor in calculating the actual training hours required. 

It may take a considerably longer period of training to bring some candidates to the standard required, especially where they have had no prior Lifesaving Instruction.

It is the responsibility of the Course Provider to ensure that all candidates are prepared for the final assessment.

Each Candidate must have an 80% attendance on the Course in order to take the final Assessment




The National Pool Lifeguard Award Assessment is made up of 4 units.


1. BLS Practical

2. Lifeguard Skills Practical

3. Pool Operation Skills Practical

3. Completion of Course Manual Worksheets (MCQ for Revalidations)


Only IWS qualified Examiners who are also IWS Pool Lifeguard Providers may

examine units 1, 2 and 3 of the Award. The Course Provider corrects the worksheets which must be available for inspection by the Course Examiner, if requested.


The ratio of Instructor / Examiner to candidate shall be max of 1:16.


All Organisers must include the name of the intended Examiner(s) on the Registration Form. An updated register of Examiners/Providers will be kept by IWS.







Unit 1 BLS:


The practical skills of BLS must be demonstrated in simulated exercises with another candidate and using training manikins. CPR must be demonstrated on manikins only. (As per CFR Skills Evaluation Sheet)


Candidates should be suitably attired and present themselves in pairs for the examination of single operator skills and in groups of three for two operator skills.

Candidates must be able to answer BLS theoretical questions posed by the examiner.


Suitable scenarios will be set by the Examiner.


Unit 2 Lifeguard Skills:


These practical skills should be carried out in simulated drowning/rescue situations at suitable indoor or outdoor swimming pools. These scenarios may include elements of swimming pool operations.


Unit 3. Pool Operations skills:


The Emergency Incident Scenario

The Examiner should set the scenario, while the candidates are in isolation.  A brief outline should be given to the candidates before the start of each scenario. 


The Examiner should always maintain control over the condition of the victims and incident details.  Candidates should be informed of changing conditions.


 The Examiner should indicate the start and completion of the incident (minimum 3 minutes, maximum 5 minutes).  Face down or submerged victims should be assumed unconscious and not breathing. 


Acting as an individual Lifeguard or as part of a team, the candidate should initiate appropriate procedures, to prevent, and/or rescue and provide aftercare for victims from a previously unknown simulated emergency situation.


Victims can either be non-swimmer(s), weak swimmer(s), injured swimmer(s) or unconscious.


Note: Sample assessment forms for Units 1 and 2 can be found in Chapter 15 of the IWS National Pool Lifeguard manual.


Rescue sequence:


Observe pool, by patrolling or watching.
Prevent, if possible, an emergency situation developing.
Spot the victims and assess the situation.
Ensure the safety of others
Initiate the emergency action plan.
Perform the rescue/s.
Assist the conscious victim from the pool.
Provide aftercare.


Sample emergency situations to simulate:


Swimmer in the middle of the pool becomes incapacitated with cramp in the foot.
Non-swimmer falls in at the deep end.
Weak swimmer paddles out of their depth and panics.
Non-swimmer attempts to move along the pool edge towards the deep end, loses contact with side and panics.
A weak swimmer, out of his/her depth, becomes exhausted and sinks.
A swimmer becomes entrapped by the steps / handrail or other pool furniture.
A swimmer collides with the side or another swimmer and is knocked unconscious.
A swimmer chokes on the water and panics.
A swimmer has a fit in the middle of the pool.
A swimmer jumps in and suffers a suspected spinal injury.
A swimmer dives in and suffers a suspected spinal injury.
A pool user has a heart attack.
A weak swimmer panics and grabs another swimmer for support.
Collapsed victim on bank of pool
Panicking onlooker on bank of pool


Combining two or more of the above will provide many other situations. The aim is to have a preventable situation with one that is not, to test Lifeguard observation skills and procedural knowledge. Water depths must be appropriate for Level 1 and Level 2 awards.


Unit 4. Worksheet completion


Worksheets serve as a checklist for both Candidate and Provider and must be available for scrutiny by the Examiner.




Candidates must achieve a pass (50%) in each technique of BLS (Unit 1), Water Work (Unit 2+3) and must also achieve a pass (50%) in the work sheet completion (Unit 4).


Candidates who fail the Level 2 award may be awarded a Level 1 qualification, subject to completing the outstanding items on the Level 1 assessment form e.g. shallow water resuscitation, etc. This process is also subject to the Candidate having been successful in the other units.


Note: A sample results summary sheet is available in Chapter 15 of the IWS National Pool Lifeguard Manual.


Repeat Examinations


Candidates may repeat the examination in whole or in part within a period of 6 months.  This repeat examination may take place in an area other than where the original examination took place.  Candidates should apply in writing to the Area Committee where an examination is taking place for permission to participate.  Candidates must provide proof to that Area Committee that they have completed a National Pool Lifeguard Course.







All candidates undertaking the IWS National Pool Lifeguard Award have the right to appeal if they are in any way dissatisfied with the assessment result. The appeals procedure, along with all relevant forms, can be found in Chapter 19 of the IWS National Pool Lifeguard Manual.




All revalidating candidates must provide a copy of their last Pool Lifeguard Certificate to Course Provider/Examiner prior to assessment.


All IWS revalidating Lifeguards must produce their CPD Log or undergo whatever training their Provider deems necessary prior to Revalidation Exam and MCQ


All Candidates from other organisations revalidating with IWS must complete the IWS Lifeguard Manual Worksheets and Revalidation Course prior to Revalidation Exam

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