Eye health and vision standards for lifeguards

TitleEye health and vision standards for lifeguards
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsClarke, A
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers03-25

­There are inconsistent lifeguard vision standards throughout the United States. The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) requires adequate vision. What is adequate vision? The American Academy of Opthamology and the American Optometric Association have no lifeguard vision standards.

To protect the lifeguard’s eyes and to better observe swimmers and potential victims, polarized sunglasses with ultraviolet protection should be required to be worn by all lifeguards except in low light conditions. Many lifeguard agencies in the United States do not require lifeguards to wear polarized sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection.

Damage caused by ultraviolet light increases with proximity to the equator and time of exposure.  Some of the eye damage caused or thought to be caused by UV light is Pterigium, Pinguecula, Cataracts and Macula Degeneration. Polarized sunglasses with UV protection block glare to better identify victims. UV protection is a property of polycarbonate lenses. Glass and plastic lenses must be treated for UV protection. Darkness or tint of lenses does not give UV protection. Polarization to reduce glare off the water requires a filter in the lenses.

Vision standards vary throughout the United States for lifeguards. Vision starts a lifeguard’s response to an emergency and is involved in every subsequent step. Lifeguard agencies and the USLA have measurable standards for swimming ability, rescue equipment and training but no consistent measurable vision standard. Without victim recognition no swimming skills, training or equipment will help.

There are problems with contact lenses and lifeguarding.

Research is needed for measurable lifeguard vision standards and how often testing is required. A visual acuity standard is most important. Other areas of research for vision standards should include peripheral vision, color vision, depth perception, contrast sensitivity, resolution lasik surgery, visual perception, visual memory and effects of brightness.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Sensitize lifeguard agencies to requiring UV protection of the eyes.
  2. Educate lifeguard agencies on the importance of requiring the use of polarized sunglasses.
  3. The need for research on lifeguard vision standards to provide the public with a consistently high level of service worldwide.
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