COVID-19 Information Hub

Water Safety during Covid – 19

Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered

This page will be updated as the situation unfolds so please check back regularly


  • Lifeguards will be on duty at selected beaches on weekends in June and everyday in July and August. For operational reasons, lifeguard cover may differ from county to county. For more information please check with the relevant local authority.
  • Local Authorities are working to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place for the protection of our front line Lifeguard service. Examples include appropriate ventilation and other measures. Only one Lifeguard should be in the Station. The others should be outside patrolling the waterway. Larger stations may be large enough to maintain social distancing.
  • All Pool Lifeguards whose qualifications expire during this current “COVID-19 lockdown” period will be given a once off extension to their WSI National Pool Lifeguard Qualification which will extend up to the end of December 2020.
  • All WSI Beach Lifeguards whose qualifications expire and need to be re-validated during the COVID-19 restrictions will be given a once off extension to their WSI National Beach Lifeguard Qualification which will extend up to the end of September 2020.
The Lifeguard Commission recommends the cancellation of the Local Authority  Beach Lifeguard (Pool) Test for 2020 only and recommends that the Local Authorities have WSI Examiners (who are also Beach Lifeguard Tutors) run a Fitness Test for the prospective Beach Lifeguards in the sea on the weekend before they start.  The LA Test “Timed Swim & Tow with Can buoy/Rescue Tube” is to be included in this fitness test.

Details of the fitness tests for Lifeguards as a result of the COVID19 restrictions:

  1. Local Authority Fitness Test for 2020 Beach Lifeguards:

(a) Run, Swim Tow in less than 10 minutes. 100m run – enter water to knee depth – 100m head up approach with a rescue tube/canbuoy to a conscious victim (victim to hold onto rescue tube/canbuoy) – 100m tow back, ensuring the victim’s safety at all times.

Fins and goggles cannot be used for this test item.

(b) Paddle 100m out from knee depth water and 100m back on a Paddle Board/ ski (not timed).

  1. Local Authority Fitness Test For 2020 Inland Open Water Lifeguards:

(a) Swim and Tow in less than 9 minutes. Enter the water to knee depth – 100m head up approach with a rescue tube/canbuoy to a conscious victim (victim to hold on to rescue tube/canbuoy) – 100m tow back, ensuring the victim’s safety at all times.                                                        Fins and goggles cannot be used for this test item.                                     

(b) Paddle 100m out from knee depth water and 100m back on a paddle Board/ Ski (not timed)

There should be no close contact during these tests and candidates must adhere to the 2 metre social distance. The Rescue tube must not be clipped around the casualty. The casualty simply holds the rescue tube ensuring social distancing.

Surf Instructors

  • Surf Instructors whose WSI qualifications expire and need to re-validate during this current “lockdown” will be given a once off extension of 1 year to their qualification.
  • CPD for Surf Instructors in the surfing industry in the use of BVM ventilation mask would be rolled out through the ISA.

The wearing of wetsuits is not mandatory for Lifeguards and if they have any concerns they should consult with the Health and Safety Officer of the relevant local authority regarding the wearing of them.

Unfortunately, conducting the beach lifeguard test at this time would be in contradiction with the government’s national guidelines for reopening society and business. However, this is currently under review and it is hoped Beach Lifeguard Examinations will be able to take place after July 20th (Phase 4 of the national guidelines), adhering to the government’s roadmap. Please check this page regularly and stay in touch with your local Water Safety Area Committee for up to date information.

Lifeguarding Procedures & Resources

  • Lifeguards will, as usual, follow Normal Operating Procedures (NOP) and Emergency Actions Plans (EAP) with due regard for social distancing, PPE and washing procedures.

Conduct the rescue as normal (following NOP’s and SOP’s) but adhere to these guidelines on CPR: European Resuscitation Council COVID-19 Guidelines

  • Contact your Local Authority employer directly on all matters related to health and safety and your employment.

Returning To Water Safely

  • Water Safety Ireland has published it’s Returning To Water Safely plan, in line with the phased approach of the government’s Roadmap For Reopening Society & Business. The plan outlines the intended return date for specific water activities, aligned to the five stages of the government’s national strategy. Details of the Returning To Water Safely plan can be found here.

The government has published the national Return to Work Safely Protocol for Employers and Workers. This document highlights a collaborative approach for the prevention and detection of Covid-19, whereby employers and employees have a shared responsibility and defined expectations. Water Safety Ireland strongly recommends that those engaged in aquatic activities familiarise themselves with the guidelines in the Return to Work Safely Protocol, and implement them in their daily behaviours and actions.

Download the Return to Water Safely Protocol

  • No, in the strict sense of the word, aquatic activities are not banned but you must act responsibly because if you get into trouble in water you may require the help of other people which may put them at risk of contracting Covid-19. As restrictions are reduced in line with Government’s Road Map for Reopening Society & Business, people will have access to all of our wonderful aquatic environments however you should be mindful that Lifeguards are not yet on duty and you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to practice safe behaviour in, on and around water. Please read the following advice before going to any waterway.
  • Swimmers must adhere to the guidelines of the HSE and of Government on social distancing.
  • Swimmers should swim parallel and close to the shore and be aware that water temperature is still too cold for extended swims (11°C coastal, 14°C inland). Wear a wetsuit and “Swim within your depth and stay within your depth”. See additional guidelines at
  • Children require constant uninterrupted supervision near water. Before you go for your swim, please take your children through these online resources so that they enjoy their aquatic activities safely:
  • Alcohol should be avoided before or during any aquatic activity as it can result in people overestimating their ability and underestimating the risk.
  • Always wear a lifejacket when on or near water and when angling from shore. Ensure that it is properly maintained and that it has a correctly fitted crotch strap.
  • Those going afloat should carry a portable Marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon and walkers should carry a mobile phone to call 112 in an emergency.
  • In an emergency call 112 and ask for the Coast Guard. Always call early.

Following on from our chairpersons letter in relation to the summer programs of lifesaving skills training and classes, the sports commission would like to update you on some of the implications for lifesaving sport here in Ireland for the remainder of 2020 as a result of Covid19 and a review of the Government’s Plan and guidelines.


Water Safety Ireland will not hold any further lifesaving sport competitions for any age group for the remainder of 2020, therefore the planned regional & national open water competitions are now cancelled.

Lifesaving Sport Training

After reviewing the Government Road plan for Reopening Society & Business it has been decided that:

There will be no Water Safety Ireland, sanctioned lifesaving sport training or use of Water Safety Area Committee (or lifesaving training centers) sports equipment for any nipper groups (8yr – 14yr) for the remainder of the year.

Only when Phase 4 of the Government Road plan for Reopening Society & Business is enacted, currently planned for July 20th, can lifesaving sport training and use of Water Safety Area Committee (or lifesaving training centers) sports equipment for Juniors, Seniors, & Masters take place STRICTLY within HSE guidelines, and following the protocols that will be issued by Water Safety Ireland Sports Commission in advance of this phase. Before any lifesaving sport training can take place at this stage a written plan of how the protocols will be implemented must be submitted to the sports commission for approval by the area committee.

National Squads

Due to the cancellation of the summer National competitions, the current 2020 National Squad will be extended for an additional year. Athletes who excelled in the 2020 National Stillwater Championships may be offered places onto the current squad later in the year. The composition of Regional squads will be reviewed later in the year and we will advise on this then. There will be no further Regional or National squad camps for the rest of 2020.

These decisions have been very difficult to make but the health and safety of all competitors, coaches, officials and parents must take precedence at this time.

(adapted from a statement from Water Safety Ireland’s – Sport Commission )

  •  Yes. Lifeguards will be on duty. In some counties, Lifeguards will begin from the 30th of May, (weekends only in June then 7 days-a-week for July & August and then weekends only for the first two weekends in September).
  • A list of Lifeguarded waterways is available at the following link but please note that you must also check locally in case of changes due to Covid19:
  • The red and yellow flags signal the presence of Lifeguards and that it is safe to swim. A red flag means that a Lifeguard is on duty but it is unsafe to swim. No flag means that no Lifeguard is on duty.
  • The dangers of cold water immersion: When cold water makes contact with your skin, the cold shock response causes an immediate loss of breathing control, possible dizziness and panic. This dramatically increases the risk of sudden drowning even if the water is calm and you know how to swim. For those who survive this but are unable to get out of the water, progressive body cooling leads to hypothermia and muscle cooling, making swimming more difficult or impossible. Children cool even faster than adults because they are smaller and have less fat.
  • Our website has lots of safety tips for a range of aquatic activities.
  • Avoid swimming, stay calm and relax. Float or tread water and if possible get as much of your body out of the water because you will always cool faster in water than in air. Wearing a lifejacket with a crotch strap will enable you to lessen heat escape by keeping your legs together and elbows by your side.
  • No. Unfortunately, the rich tradition of open water swimming and lifesaving training conducted by our Volunteers nationwide has to be cancelled for the protection of all volunteers and pupils alike. Instead, parents and guardians should give children the skills and tips available at
  • Yes! You can bring your children through a range of activities, puzzles, games and exercises that will give them lots of tips on how to stay safe when they eventually enjoy our wonderful waterways. Go to


  • Unfortunately, due to current guidance around social distancing and in the interest of public health, the Examiner’s Conference will not go ahead.

Swimming Pool Safety

  • Yes. As we have progressed to phase 3 of the government’s roadmap to reopen society and business, pools were allowed to reopen from the 29th of June.

COVID-19 Is Here

For information about a host of volunteers services, see our dedicated community supports.