Swimming Teachers’ Association issues safety advice and best practice guidance for outdoor swimmers and open water coaches

The Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA) has released guidance for both swimmers and open water coaches following the ease in lockdown restrictions in England. The STA is a national governing body for swimming and lifesaving that also trains professional open water swimming coaches. These guidelines apply to England only, not Scotland and Wales.

The guidance states that the STA do not support any form of outdoor swimming in unsupervised or non-lifeguarded bodies of water at the present time. While acknowledging that “open water swimming has many benefits and can be undertaken safely, without suitable professional supervision,” the STA argues that “at this time it does pose an increased threat to life” and therefore does not recommend anyone new to swimming or new to open water swimming goes into a body of open water alone.

Then STA also urges swimmers to consider the “moral as well as safety aspects of going into open water,” asking if this is the time to try an activity which “could leave a swimmer in a potentially vulnerable position and needing help from the already overstretched emergency services.”

If swimmers do decide to go swimming, the STA recommends that they follow these safety guidelines:

  1. Do not go swimming alone – always ensure someone is supervising and knows where they are swimming, and when they should return
  2. Always follow the water safety code and relevant signage
  3. Swim with a qualified open water swimming coach who has all precautions in place
  4. Swimmers should have all the appropriate equipment, such as a wetsuit, swim hats, goggles, post swim warm clothing and tow float
  5. Ensure all equipment is cleaned and disinfected after the swim
  6. Social distancing must be maintained throughout the swimming session, swimmers should be a minimum of 2 metres apart
  7. Ensure there is appropriate safety cover available – please note that there are currently no RNLI lifeguarded beaches.

The STA also draw attention to the danger of cold water shock to unacclimatised swimmers.

The full guidelines is available here:

Guidance for open water coaches

The statement also includes guidance for open water coaches on how to ensure swimmers’ safety if they decide to recommence coaching:

  • A detailed risk assessment must be in place
  • The Normal Operating Plan and Emergency Action Plan has been reviewed and is up-to date to include Covid-19 recommendations
  • The venue is safe for swimming, including all water checks are up to date and open water coaches have the venue’s permission where required
  • Coaching ratios are reviewed / reduced to maintain social distancing, this could mean offering one to one sessions
  • Appropriate lifesaving and first aid cover for the venue is in place
  • Lifesaving and first aid cover – make sure the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment is available, such as gloves, face mask, antibacterial hand gel
  • For guidance on CPR procedures see,
  • Social distancing is maintained throughout the pre-swim, coaching session / swim and post swim
  • Sanitised hand gel or hand washing facilities are available at the start and end of the swim
  • The swimmer or open water swimming coach have no signs or symptoms of Covid-19
  • The swimmer and open water swimming coach have the appropriate equipment such as wetsuit, tow floats, swim hats, goggles
  • The swimmer is acclimatised to the open water and during the first part of the swim / session the swimmer undertakes acclimatisation activities
  • All equipment is cleaned and disinfected after swimming and use
  • There are dry and suitable facilities for post swim changing and the swimmer has brought warm dry clothing
  • Make sure you are insured to coach and have all the appropriate safety cover in place.

The STA also sets out insurance and risk assessment requirements for open water coaches.

More information:

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.