Aquatic Personal Protective Equipment

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Lifesaving was once a matter of luck, not a trainable technique that has been fined tuned for maximum effectiveness. We now teach rescue techniques only with certain equipment. This equipment is essential both to protect the user as well as to save the victim. Equipment use is not optional in today’s standards of lifeguarding. It is as much to ensure proper rescuer performance as it is to provide appropriate rescuer safety.

Tube

The tube provides the rescuer with protection and prevention from sinking. It also provides the victim with buoyancy and prevents the lifeguard from having to fully support the victim’s weight.

  • The tube must be in possession of the on-duty lifeguard at all times, no exceptions!
  • The strap should be worn by the lifeguard and gathered to prevent catching on the chair during exit.
  • The tube can be used as a barrier for the life guard in the event of an emergency (i.e. keeps the guard in control, keeps the victim away from the lifeguard, supports 4 to 5 victims’ heads above the static water line).

Mask & Gloves

The mask protects the lifeguard from ingesting vomit or other bodily fluids. Gloves give the rescuer protection from blood borne pathogens and give the victim assurance that their rescuer will not panic and quit before the rescue is complete.

  • Mask and gloves should always be with the guard, preferably in a fanny pack.
  • Virtually all drowning and near drowning incidents involve bodily fluids, especially vomit, which has the potential to be expelled into the guard’s mount if they do not utilize a mask.
  • It is unlikely that the guard will use these protective devices if they are not readily available, so encourage them to wear the fanny pack at all times, even when they are on-site but not actively scanning. This will ensure they are prepared if they have to respond to an emergency off the pool deck.

Training

Every lifeguard is required to be certified, but your facility should take extra precautions into consideration.

  • Conduct training that focuses specifically on PPE utilization and practice The Redwoods Institute
  • During training, “create” bodily fluids using fake blood and Alka-Seltzer in order to prepare your guards and help them adapt to encountering this visual.
  • Regularly verify that your lifeguards are properly equipped and rescue-ready.

Lifeguards train and practice in closed environments, usually free of blood borne pathogens and actual drowning victims. It may be difficult to conceive of such a remote and unfamiliar danger as a blood borne pathogen, but the exposure, once experienced, has the potential to be life changing and irrevocable.

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