pool safety deficiencies

This is a collection of pictures of lifeguards and facilities that have flaws in their safety for use by my lifeguard training students when we discuss lifeguard management.


Many pools have a rule that many parents don’t understand:

no waterwings or floaties

The reasons for this rule are that

1) the waterwings can make the parents/guardians overconfident

2) the waterwings can make the child overconfident

Photo below taken at a pool with no rule banning waterwings or requiring a parent to stay next to a child who depends on them
OR perhaps a rule that was not being enforced?

if we are a weak enough swimmer to need water wings we need an adult near us:

3) and if they slip up to the child’s wrists, they can hold the child underwater. The child will often not have the strength to pull themselves up to where they can breathe. Even a few seconds of this is too many. (The photos below were posed. Sean is a good swimmer who can hold his breath for quite awhile.)

water wings hold child underwater: child held under by waterwings:


This next photo of a lifeguard at the same national park pool using her rescue tube as a footrest instead of having it in her lap, ready for use, was taken at the same pool as the one above of a child in waterwings on his own.

lifeguard at national park pool using rescue tube as a footrest:

As I watched this pool briefly I saw two other guards demonstrate that they were bored: one was twirling his whistle, and another absentmindedly tapped her rescue tube in her lap as if it were a bongo drum.

When some of these guards changed positions they did not make certain that the pool zone was being watched by at least one of them the whole time.


And at a California University, a lifeguard on duty with her feet on her rescue tube. My students tell me they have seen guards at this facility with their feet on their rescue tube AND talking on a cell phone. The lifeguards are often on duty alone and responsible for an entire olympic sized pool, about 25 yards by 50 meters.

april 7 2007 lifeguard at SJSU with feet on rescue tube:


Below a picture of a pool office with a big corner window that would allow the manager to watch the guards/patrons/lessons, except that it has so many flyers posted in the windows, and a big display just outside, that the view is blocked.

flyers in window block view of pool:


The Red Cross says, in the lifeguard training manual,

“The following guidelines will help prevent head, neck and back injuries:

…place starting blocks above deep water (at least 9 feet deep).”

Starting blocks are a temptation (an attractive nuisance) and should be removed when not in use by swim team members, or have solid rounded covers placed on them to prevent people from using them.

starting block needs cover:

In the picture above, the starting blocks are placed over seven feet deep water, and the one in the lane closest to the shallow water is very near where the pool bottom slopes to less than 5 feet. An inexperienced diver who attempted to use this starting block and slipped or otherwise performed a dive not straight out could hit his head on the bottom slope.


group backboard mistakes:

I saw a group photo of backboarding posted in pride at a website.

Yet I was troubled that the guards were not doing backboarding properly, whether they were Red Cross, YMCA or Ellis guards.

The girl sitting on the side of the pool should not be holding up the guard at the head with her feet in his armpits. The guard at the closer side of the board does not look as if he has a strong enough kick to do strapping without the support of a tube.

So I had some of my students recreate the picture I saw at the other website and it is now a part of my Backboarding mistakes quiz.


Ken Mignosa took this photo Saturday, July 22, 2006 at the JSSL (Junipero Serra Swim League) Championships his son was competing in.

Ken Mignosa photo Saturday, 22 July, 2006 JSSL (Junipero Serra Swim League) Championships:

In American Red Cross Lifeguarding we read: “While scanning, do not be distracted by people or activities. Keep focused on the assigned area of responsibility.”


“Distractions … affect patron surveillance, for example, a lifeguard talking to other lifeguards or friends. A brief conversation might seem innocent, but during that time a 20 to 60 second struggle of a young child could be missed. The child could die because a lifeguard was distracted! Social conversations should not be held while on duty.”


lane line can't support a victim: The lifeline or laneline at this pool at a hotel in a National Park somewhat fulfills the need to mark the dropoff from shallow to deep water. But because there are not enough floats and they are not evenly spaced, it would not be strong enough to support a distressed swimmer, so it would not save a life as it is supposed to.


Guards need to guard from stands or the edge of the deck where they can see the whole surface and the entire bottom of the area they are responsible for.

Here’s a job offer on craigslist:

“Certified Lifeguard at Private Club

Date: 2006-11-27, 1:50PM

XYZ Tennis & Swim Club is looking for a CPR, first aid and water safety certified lifeguard for hours at the xyz Rec pool in Xyz Valley. Hours are flexible, however we are primarily looking for morning (approximately 7 – 9am) or evening hours (6 – 8pm). There may be a need for some mid-day and weekend hours as well if you are interested.

Duties include opening and closing the pool, signing-in and supervising recreational lap swimmers, covering the pool at night, testing the pool chemicals at least once during a shift, and some light maintainence.

The pool is located in a quiet rural area, and there are usually no more than 4 – 5 lap swimmers in the pool at a time. There is also a large pool office from which the pool can be monitored during bad weather.

The management is clearly overconfident that these 4 to 5 lap swimmers won’t need any help.


Preventative lifeguarding

swimming pool codes