I am having a disagreement with my boss. I want all new employees to take a water test that includes a 500 yard swim, an active victim rescue, an "off the bottom" rescue of an unconscious person, a spinal turn in shallow water and CPR. My boss says " If they are already currently certified why bother with all of that? Besides even if you do the testing the Red Cross only requires 300 yards to take Lifeguard Training why would you make them swim 500 yards to get a job?"

What sorts of pre-employment testing do you all do?

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We test everyone on active victim and spinal. We have found that an LGI in our area is handing out LG certs like candy to kids that can swim. We bring them in to test them for employment and they don't have a clue. When asked how many hours they had in water practicing their answer is usually 1/2-2 hours. It is imperative that we are testing perspective employees. When testing keep in mind your pool and what would be expected of them.
We do all of the above, plus we have them swim a 25 yard sprint where they must look up and ahead 3 times as if swimming to rescue a victim, and must be accomplished in 18 seconds or under. This is related to the "10/20" rule. Surprising how many fail this. We also do the one minute tread with 10-pound brick, of which several fail.

If a lifeguard candidate fails any portion of the test they can come back and retest but they have to everything all over again (except the 500-yd swim). We believe this process tests their hydrophysicality as well as their stress under pressure.

Out of over 180 candidates, probably only 10 will fail the sprint or brick portion, therefore failing the entire test. We usually hire a minimum of 150 lifeguards. We also make all returning staff retest each year, too. I highly recommend this risk management process which will reduce your agency's liability if an accident occurs. Other aquatic professionals have criticized us for this seeminly difficult pre-employent screening, but most young people are up to the challenge and will find a way to succeed. I took the test at age 46 and passed just fine, so I humiliate most of them into passing. Also, if a lifeguard candidate is a decent athlete, not necessarily a swimmer, they will pass with flying colors with a little practice. Our pool management staff cannot work if they don't pass so the stakes are high. Good luck!
We have all applicants complete the following a 500 yard swim (250 Breaststroke and 250 Front Crawl), Tread water for 2 minutes without using their hands, Active victim rescue, Passive Submerged rescue, Spinal injury management, retrieving a 10 pound brick from the bottom of our diving well (18 1/2 feet), CPR/AED skills, first aid skills including severe bleeding and falling from a height of 5 meters. We also have 3 written tests (CPR/AED, First Aid and Lifeguarding). All of the skills are scored on a point system of 1-5. The applicants must score greater than 72 points to be considered eligible for employment

We feel it is imperative that we test each and every applicant because as I’m sure you know as well as I do that all it takes to pass the Lifeguard Training Course it to show the LGI that you can do the skills on that given day. The only way that you know that the applicants are “up to par” is to test and evaluate their skills for yourself.

My shift supervisors and I are in the process of updating the pre-employment skills test to include treading water for longer than 2 minutes and a portion with a 10 pound brick; more spinal injury management; among other things. I like Terri's sprint (I hadn't thought of this) and I think I am going to implement this once we finalize the update.

I hope this helps.
WOW!!! Reminds me of the early days when I was just starting out as an lifeguard (LG) in the mid 60s...and you do all of that on the day of a pre-employment? To be honest, I do trust whoever trained, tested, certified, and gave the Lifeguarding card to the LG who applies for a job with my company. However, on the first day, I do test 200 yards in the water, front approach stroke and breast stroke with a rescue tube, as well as a practical from the guard stand for both an active and passive drowning victim. As a LGI and WSI since 1970, I can spot the "problem children applicants" in the water. This eliminates nearly all of the "surprises" that may occur if the prospective LG were to sit in one of my guard stands. I do retest and retrain every LG in lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid, O2, AED, and BBP every year as part of the in-service training, which is held every two weeks on Saturday mornings during the Summer season.
All of our Lifeguards are required to swim a 500 in 10 minutes or less, swim 25 yards of approach stroke in 20 seconds or less, swim 20 yards with a victim in tow in 30 seconds or less, swim a backboard 15 yards in 20 seconds or less and tread water in sweats for 3 minutes (they are encouraged to do this without using their hands). We test on these skills a minimum of 2 times a year and any employee who does not pass is taken off of our active rotation until they do. Studies have shown that while performing a rescue a guard will operate at 70% or more of their Anaerobic Capacity (Max VO2) so the higher level of fitness your guards are in the better their endurance, the more effective they will be when making a save.
I'd be curious if you knew where I would be able to find the study about max VO2 and lifeguards?
500 yd swim, and 3 skill scenarios
I have found having a pre-employment test weeds out the potential staff you may not want. I also tested all returning guards. Testing the returning guards also helped give me more leverage to not rehire them if their performence was less than satisfactory.

The test is not hard. Timed 500 yard swim (looking for less than 10 minutes but this was more for scare) and passive submerge victim into CPR and an active drowning rescue.


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