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Supervision, scanning and surveillance procedures

Supervision is the key for the safe conduct of aquatic activity!

Supervising students in aquatic environments requires a unique set of skills and knowledge. It is vital that staff maintain vigilance throughout the activity day and provide ongoing supervision of students within the water.

What is scanning?

Scanning is the systematic visual observation of the venue, its users and their activities. Teachers/staff will observe student behaviour and look for signals that someone in the water needs help.

Effective scanning assumes that teachers can see the entire area, that they know what they are looking for, and that they recognise it when they see it. They should be in a position to maintain supervision of the water at all times and should scan the bottom of the pool as well as the surface.

The principles of scanning:

  • Observers must be positioned with clear, unobstructed sight lines. Lifeguards may assist in the positioning of teachers.
  • Move to counteract student and patron interference, especially in ground-level supervision.
  • Scanning strategies must compensate for an inability to see below the surface and for the distance they are from user activity.
  • Focus on people and what they are doing. Make eye contact whenever possible. Watch the face. Spend less time and attention on patrons who are good swimmers or safely enjoying the water, but still include them in your scanning. Check weaker swimmers more frequently.
  • Each student within an individual teacher's area of responsibility should be checked every 10 seconds.
  • Look and listen for the unusual.
  • Avoid staring at the same thing.
  • Give your eyes a break by focusing momentarily on some distant object, or the horizon.
  • Use your peripheral vision to detect movement.
  • In outdoor facilities, monitor changes in the environmental conditions (weather and water) for their potential impact on student behaviour and safety.
  • Be careful of conditions that affect visibility, such as glare from the sun, overhead lights, cloudy water or shadows on the water at different times of the day.
  • Avoid turning your back on the area - walk backwards or sideways to avoid loss of eye contact.
  • Scan the bottom of the pool first, then the surface.
  • Arm and leg action, body position and movement through the water are good indicators of weak swimmers and those in trouble.
  • Don't interrupt scanning your area except to make a rescue or stop someone from breaking the rules. It should only take a few seconds to explain the dangers to someone breaking the rules and often teachers are able to continue scanning while doing this. If more time is needed teachers should seek assistance.
  • If a student asks a question or has a concern, acknowledge them and explain that you are listening but still need to scan your area. Refer the student to the duty supervisor or another staff member if needed.