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Swimming in pools

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Guideline review date: 28 October 2021

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner (DOCX, 600KB) must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template (DOCX, 488KB).

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in water safety and swimming education activities (e.g. water safety and swimming education program, stroke correction activities, skill practice sessions) as an activity to support curriculum delivery.

For swimming activities in natural environments (e.g. beaches, dams), use the CARA guideline for swimming in locations other than pools​.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. swimming in pools while c​amping) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions and international school study tours procedure.

For activities conducted as part of representative school sport programs, schools should consult with Queensland School Sport​.​

High risk
Water safety and swimming education activities in a municipal, commercial or school swimming pool.

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

Prior consultation is required with local authority (e.g. venue manager, lifeguard) for local advice, emergency support mechanisms and additional supervision requirements to ensure participant and public safety.

Open wound management must occur before, during and after the activity. Consult infection control guidelines and Queenslan​​d Health’s exclusion periods for infectious conditions poster (PDF, 1.6MB) for first aid and hygienic practices.

Additionally, for swimming carnivals, participation in events must be appropriate to students’ current swimming competence. Consult the sequence of competency found in the water safety and swimming education program​ for guidance at each year/band level.​​​​

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Supervision

Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students’ medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

Supervision ratios are determined in consultation with the swim teaching class ratios from the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association. In some instances, the supervision ratio may be 1:1.

Specific roles for supervisors must include recovery, emergency and general supervision roles.

At least 2 adult supervisors are required. Final supervision required to fulfil recovery, emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, swimming competence and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

For activities with a class group of students in years 7–12 who are determined to be water-safe in the activity location (e.g. surf survival certificate), 1 registered teacher may be sufficient to fulfil recovery, emergency and supervision roles for activities. In this situation, students must be inducted to respond correctly in an emergency by clearing the water, assembling in a safe area and providing assistance (e.g. seeking adult help, summoning an ambulance and/or acting in a support role in resuscitation).

Participants must adhere to all rules and advice communicated by local lifeguard service, facility operator/owner and any safety signage at the facility/location.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must assess weather conditions prior to undertaking the activity, inspecting the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must be appropriately dressed to perform an immediate rescue at all times
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must ensure all students in the water are in sight of at least 1 adult supervisor at all times
  • must monitor shared facilities (e.g. change rooms, public access areas)
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. overcrowding, extreme temperatures, thunderstorms), if relevant
  • must not allow competitive breath-holding or 'no-breath' underwater games
  • must not rely on students to recover a person in difficulty at any time.

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority – blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least 1 adult supervisor is required to have a current water safety and swimming teacher qualification from a registered training organisation (RTO) or governing sporting body, e.g. AUSTSWIM, and demonstrate capacity to perform an appropriate rescue procedure including using appropriate rescue aids.

For water safety and swimming education activities

Qualifications for the adult supervisor leading the activity:

  • a registered teacher with demonstrated ability to perform rescues appropriate to the location. Examples of demonstrated ability include:
    • competence (knowledge and skills) in water safety e.g. current professional development from Royal Lifesaving, such as Swim and Survive
    • a water safety and swimming instructor qualification from an RTO governing sporting body covering SISCAQU002 – Perform basic water rescues unit of competency
    • a current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environment
    • or another method determined by the principal; or
  • an adult supervisor, working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with a statement of attainment from an RTO or governing sporting body covering SISSS00112 – Swimming and Water Safety Teacher skill set or equivalent.

For stroke correction activities and skill practice sessions

A registered teacher with demonstrated ability to perform an appropriate rescue. Examples of demonstrated ability include:

  • qualifications in physical education or equivalent demonstrated capability
  • a water safety and swimming instructor qualification from an RTO governing sporting body covering SISCAQU002 – Perform basic water rescues unit of competency
  • a current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environment
  • another method determined by the principal; or
  • an adult supervisor with accreditation as a development coach with Swimming Australia.

Additionally for activities with students less than 5 years old

One adult supervisor with a statement of attainment from an RTO or governing sporting body covering SISCAQU011 – Foster the development of infants and toddlers in an aquatic environment unit of competency or equivalent

Additionally for activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety in the water

One adult supervisor with a statement of attainment from an RTO or governing sporting body covering SISCAQU012 – Assist participants with a disability during aquatic activities unit of competency or equivalent.

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used venues to ascertain suitability.

Venue with appropriate toilet and change facilities, accessible to students with disability as required. Consult the health and safety checklist – swimming pools for guidance in identifying hazards.

A working emergency signal (e.g. whistle, air horn) must be readily available.

A clearly defined swimming area (e.g. using lane markers) of an appropriate depth considering student age and ability. Consult the water safety and swimming education program for guidance at each year/band level.

If used, lifejackets and/or personal flotation devices that are fit for purpose and appropriate to students’ size and weight (e.g. conforming to Australian Standards AS 4758).

Follow the school’s sun safety strategy, including appropriate swimwear (e.g. swim shirts), sun protection (e.g. sunscreen) and shade facilities when outside.

Each student must provide their own towel.




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 Common hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards Control measures

Biological hazards
Body fluids (e.g. blood, saliva, sweat)

Follow appropriate cleaning and hygiene management practices when using shared equipment (Departmental staff search "cleaning advice for shared equipment" in OnePortal).

Environmental conditions
Weather, sun, humidity

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Facilities and equipment hazards Control measures

Activity location

Check facility for adequate lighting and water temperature and depth.

Electricity
Electrocution

If power is required on the pool deck:

  • use portable safety switches where there are no residual current devices installed
  • do not use extension leads, electrical equipment and cords
  • use battery powered or non-powered equipment.

Instructional aids

Check instructional aids (e.g. kickboards, water noodles) for damage before and during the activity. Do not use aquatic toys as instructional aids.

Prevent participants from swimming under learn to swim platform (if used). Closely monitor the area around and under the platform.

Manual handling
Lifting equipment, manipulating/moving students

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying (e.g. hoists, wheelchairs).

Student considerations Control measures

Deep water
Risk of drowning, submersion

Allocate safe swimming areas (e.g. shallow water, next to the pool edge) for non-confident or reluctant swimmers. Provide learning experiences appropriate to swimming confidence and competence.

Ensure students with health conditions participate in an easy access area (e.g. outside lane) in case an emergency procedure is required.

Closely monitor students in deep water.

Only allow competent swimmers to swim underwater. Restrict underwater swimming to short-duration activities under close supervision. Note: the water safety and swimming education program begins using breaststroke approach to swim down and touch bottom in the year 3 and 4 band.

Entanglement

Wear swimming caps if hair poses a hazard.

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyards) before participating.

Hyperventilation

Encourage participants to take a full/deep breath before submerging. Closely monitor students for involuntary multiple, shallow breaths.

Do not allow competitive breath-holding or 'no-breath' underwater games.

Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue

Conduct warm-up/cool-down activities.

Continually monitor participants for signs of fatigue and exhaustion.

Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.

Student issues
Student numbers, special needs, high risk behaviours, medical conditions, separation from the group

Implement procedures (e.g. buddy system, roll marking mechanisms) to account for all participants before, during and after the activity.

Limit the number of students in the water when close supervision is required.

Water entry

Closely monitor all dive entries. Consult the water safety and swimming education program for guidance on safe water entry at each band of years.

Only allow students deemed competent in dive technique to progressively perform pool deck dive entries. All pool deck dive entries to be closely supervised. Note the water safety and swimming education program begins head first entry progressions from the pool deck in the year 5 and 6 band.

For swimming carnivals:

Follow the shallow water starts in competition guidelines outlined in Swimming Australia’s facilities rules – dive entry for competitive swimming policy when conducting relay races.

Visibility

Have students wear easily identifiable clothing (e.g. high visibility rash vest). Ensure staff can easily recognise those students with health support needs (in and out of the water) and are familiar with their needs.

 Disclaimer

This information is developed and distributed on this website by the State of Queensland for use by Queensland state schools only.

Use or adaptation of, or reliance on, this information by persons or organisations other than the State of Queensland is at their sole risk. All users who use, adapt or rely on this information are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency and appropriateness to their particular circumstances. The State of Queensland makes no representations, either express or implied, as to the suitability of this information to a user's particular circumstances.

To the full extent permitted by law, the State of Queensland disclaims all responsibility and liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs arising from the use or adaptation of, or reliance on, this information.

Links to external websites are for convenience only and the State of Queensland has not independently verified the information on the linked websites. It is the responsibility of users to make their own decisions about the accuracy, currency, reliability and correctness of the information at these external websites.

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Last updated 12 November 2021