Water Safety during Covid – 19

Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered

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

  • 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 and also remain within the prescribed distance of 5km from home when travelling for any aquatic activities. Current guidance states that people can exercise – either on their own or in a group of no more than 4 people – where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact with other people.
  • 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 https://watersafety.ie/open-water-swimming-final-231219/
  • 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: www.teachpaws.ie
  • 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.
  •  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: https://watersafety.ie/lifeguards/
  • 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  www.watersafety.ie 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.

Swimming Pool Safety

  • Yes on the 20th of July if we can adhere to the Government Road Map.


  • 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.

Lifeguards  may encounter patients with suspected COVID‐19 within their workplace or when tasked to normal everyday emergency incidents. Standard infection control precautions should be applied when treating all patients and lifeguards should follow all PPE Procedures supplied by Local Authorities. Both lifeguard and patient will need to be aware of cough and sneeze etiquette, with hand washing required before and after treatment. 


Patients in cardiac arrest should have compression only CPR applied ( rescuers who are willing, trained and able to do so, may wish to deliver rescue breaths to children in addition to chest compressions). 

Responders who are trained to use a BVM may do so but should ensure a viral filter (compliant with BS EN ISO23328‐1:2008) is attached. To ensure a good seal on the facemask, to minimise droplet risk, the two‐person operation of the BVM is recommended. Oxygen – if responders are administering oxygen it should be administered at the lowest appropriate flow rate, with a surgical facemask over the same if patient tolerates this.

See more information: European Resuscitation Council COVID-19 Guidelines

  • 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.
  • 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.