Occupational fitness standards for beach lifeguards

TitleOccupational fitness standards for beach lifeguards
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsDr. Reilly, T, Wooler, A
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers03-23

­Context: The aim of this project was to establish the most physically demanding tasks of BLG in the South West of the UK, and the associated metabolic demands, with the goal of developing a fitness standard directly related to job performance.

Methods: A survey of 91 BLG identified casualty handling, sea swimming while towing a casualty, and board paddling with a casualty as the most demanding job requirements. The metabolic demands of these tasks when self-paced were measured in the sea (Figure 1a). The subject’s VO2max on these tasks were also measured in a swimming flume (Figure 1b). Tests of beach running; strength and endurance; anthropometrics; cardiovascular capacity; swimming and paddling performance were measured on a group of lifeguards over various distances in a pool and at sea.

Results: The average (SD) metabolic demands of towing and board paddling a casualty in the sea (self paced) were determined as 3.2L.min-1(0.6) and 2.1L.min-1 (0.4) respectively. The average board paddling speed was determined to be 1.7m∙s-1, 95% of BLG could cover 289m in the sea in 3.5 minutes paddling a board. A significant correlation (r=-0.82, P<0.001) was identified between distance paddled in the sea in 3.5 minutes and pool 400m front crawl swim time. On the basis of this relationship, it was concluded that BLG must be able to swim 400m front crawl in a pool in less than 7.5 minutes. A performance objective of BLG is to reach a drowning victim within 3.5 minutes, in order to prevent irreversible cerebral damage, and return the casualty to the shore within 10 minutes of the start of rescue, with sufficient energy to initiate CPR,. To achieve this from the maximum distance offshore, a BLG must be able to tow at a rate that requires a VO2 1.7L.min-1. To avoid fatigue during a tow, this value should remain below 70% towing VO2max; which must therefore be 2.43L.min-1. This can be predicted from the relationship (r=0.83, P<0.001) identified between deltoid circumference/log 400m front crawl swim time and towing VO2max (L.mn-1).

Implications: This research lead to the recommendation that patrolled area on a beach be decreased to 300m unless an IRB is available.  The information collected in this study identified the metabolic demands of BLG. The final fitness standards for BLG in England are now underpinned by scientific rationale and were implemented by the RNLI for the 2004 season.

Learning Outcomes
  1. The most physically demanding generic tasks required by BLG were identified
  2. The metabolic demands of these tasks were measured as well as the maximum capabilities of BLG
  3. Relationships between pool swimming and towing and paddling were identified to underpin the 400m pool swim time requirement
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