Swimming in locations other than pools


​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) as an activity to support curriculum delivery in a location other than a swimming pool. Such locations include clear, shallow, calm and confined swimming areas at natural venues (e.g. dams and non-surf beaches), clear, deep and/or flowing swimming areas (e.g. lakes, rivers, deep non-surf beaches and dams), bodies of water exposed to currents, strong winds, large waves and/or access to open waters (e.g. beaches exposed to rip and swell conditions, and lakes or rivers exposed to currents).

For swimming activities in pools, use the CARA guideline for s​wimming in 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 locations other than 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 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 location other than a​ 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. lifeguard service, marine park managers) for local advice, emergency support mechanisms and additional supervision requirements to ensure participant and public safety.

Confirmation of student water safety and swimming competence is required prior to participation. The process is determined by the school and must consider the specific aquatic environments in which the activity will take place. Consult the sequence of competency water safety and swimming education program for support in determining age-appropriate suitability and consider student self-rescue skills in the specific aquatic environment.

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.​



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

Note: Lifeguard services are not considered as supervisors of the activity

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.

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 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 one 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.

At least 1 adult supervisor is required to be:

  • a registered teacher with demonstrated ability to perform rescues appropriate to the location. Examples of demonstrated ability include:
    • qualifications in physical education or similar; or
    • a current statement of attainment from a registered training organisation (RTO) or governing sporting body covering SISCAQU002 – Perform basic water rescues unit of competency; or
    • current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environment; or
    • another method determined by the principal.
  • an adult supervisor, working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with a current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environment.

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. Check with the local authority (e.g. local government) for the presence of known water contaminants (e.g. effluent, blue-green algae) or other marine hazards (e.g. stonefish) at the location.

A clearly defined swimming area of an appropriate depth considering student age and ability. Consult the water safety and swimming education program for guidance at each year/band level. Depending on the location, rope floats or anchored buoys linked with ropes should be used to define the swimming boundary.

Assess suitability of surrounds and reach of water when selecting a location. Consider local water conditions and foreseeable hazards such as;

  • tidal flow, currents and turbulence
  • use by other watercraft and traffic patterns
  • water temperature, depth and visibility
  • underwater hazards (e.g. rocks and rapids, turbulence from a waterfall)
  • dangerous marine life.

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant for the location and conditions (e.g. enclosed footwear).

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

In open water, a pontoon, boat or float must be in close proximity to students.

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.

If privately owned equipment is being used, principal approval and owner consent/insurance details must be obtained prior to the activity.

 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 'practical subjects cleaning 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.

Assess the location for floating debris before each session.

Ensure stinger suits and/or footwear is worn in the water when appropriate (e.g. enclosed footwear with thick soles when swimming in creeks or estuaries where dangers such as stonefish may be present).

Continuously monitor conditions for emerging rips, strong currents, turbulence and under tows. Cease activities when environmental warnings have been issued (e.g. local government or lifeguard warning).

Facilities and equipment hazards Control measures

Entry/exit points

Use the designated swimming areas when conducting the activity on patrolled beaches.

Establish appropriate entry and exit points at the water's edge.

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 pontoons, boats and platforms.

Manual handling
Lifting equipment, manipulating/moving students

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.

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.

Closely monitor students in deep water.

Restrict access if turbulence may be expected (e.g. where a waterfall empties into deep water).


Wear swimming caps if hair poses a hazard.

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


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.

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.

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


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Last updated 06 September 2023