Guidance for Leaders

  • Planning
  • Group Size
  • Water Hazards

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

  • Potential danger from polluted water.
  • Restrictions placed on swimming by landowners, local or regional council, or Water Authority.
  • If swimming in the sea, the area should be free from strong tides or rip currents, or undertows and obstacles such as rocks.  Swimmers should be restricted to swimming in one specific area only.
  • The current weather with particular attention to wind strength and direction.
  • If swimming in a river, attention should be given to the rate of flow of water and the potential for a rapid rise in level as a result of recent rainfall, power generation activities or similar. Lifeguard cover should be organised to provide close supervision of the designated swimming site whilst also taking account of the potential for floating objects from upstream into the site and for swimmers to be flushed downstream out of the site.
  • Potential danger from obstacles, or problems likely to be caused by other water users.


Immediately before Swimming

  • Double check the area to ensure there are no obstacles or obvious dangers.
  • Restrict the swimming area so that control can be kept to an easily managed area.
  • Ensure that the entry and exit points from the shore or bank into the water are safe.
  • Only allow those who can swim into the water and ensure that those who cannot swim remain on dry land and are adequately supervised.
  • Ensure that the group are briefed thoroughly

During Swimming

  • Only allow jumping into clear water where the depth is KNOWN and when the area has been checked for underwater obstacles. 
  • Diving head first should not be permitted
  • The qualified lifesaver must remain on the bank keeping constant watch.
  • The qualified lifesaver should remain on the bank to keep constant watch. If the lifesaver is required to enter the water for any reason, he/she must be replaced by a responsible person over the age of 16 who will act as a second pair of eyes and alert them to any emergency situation.

The following ratios are maximums and should not be exceeded. In some instances it may be necessary to reduce this ratio further.

1 qualified Lifesaver: 6 participants

 With another responsible adult available to assist, the group number can total up to 10.

The qualified lifesaver should be particularly aware of the possible effects on swimmers of long periods in cold water.

N.B Natural waters can be extremely cold even in summer and leaders should be aware of the dangers of sudden immersion in cold water.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.


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