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Royal Life Saving fears AIS reboot Framework fails to account for swimming and water safety programs
Royal Life Saving Society - Australia has issued a communication expressing “concerns” that Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Framework for Rebooting Sport does not directly address measures relating to swimming and water safety programs and other common aquatic activities including pool-based lifesaving, and aqua aerobics.
While the Framework includes measures to guide a return to aquatic sports (competitive swimming, water polo and artistic swimming), Royal Life Saving has advised “that this omission would negatively impact on aquatic centres and swim schools as they sought to re-open and comply with the Government’s easing of restrictions.”
Going on to highlight “this segment of industry is responsible for a significant proportion of employment and participation”, Royal Life Saving goes on to say that restarting swimming and water safety activities is “vital” in the context of:
• The business case and viability of re-opening aquatic facilities and swim schools
• Returning the vast number of employees currently stood down (noting many are supported by JobKeeper)
• Returning highest number of community members, particularly children to aquatic activities
During the Coronavirus lockdown, Royal Life Saving has made a series of representations on behalf of the sector, including, as of the beginning of this month having told the Federal Department of Health (Office of Sport) as to how swimming and water safety programs (swimming lessons) and other aquatic activities could be mapped to the AIS Framework, and in most cases be allowable under AIS Level B.
As of last Wednesday (13th May), Royal Life Saving was made aware that the COVID-19 Sport and Health Advisory Committee - as proposed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and endorsed by National Cabinet - had held its inaugural meeting on 7th May 2020 and had agreed that the Royal Life Saving proposal is consistent with the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities and the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment. Specifically, its alignment to AIS Level B.
Implications of this advice for restarting programs
Royal Life Saving’s view is that following the implementation of a facility risk assessment in accordance with the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation (GSPO), and while adhering to local jurisdictional policies with respect to reopening swimming pools, social distancing, and hygiene:
• Swimming and water safety programs, especially those where the learner is confident, independent, and able to swim and maintain buoyancy unaided should be included for consideration to a return alongside swimming sport and club activities
• Programs that cater for beginning swimmers (child and adult) who are unable to swim or maintain buoyancy unaided, and who require contact or holds in teaching are more difficult to deliver in the context of social distancing, contact exclusions, and therefore may need to be reconsidered until the Government amends social distancing, contact exclusions. It notes that this is effectively at Level 3 in the AIS Framework is approaching in several states in June.
• Royal Life Saving’s initial risk assessment of infant aquatics points to issues related to social distancing between parents and parents, and teachers and parents. Its view is that these activities would require significant adjustment to teaching protocols to meet the requirements of AIS Level B
• Aqua aerobics with adjustments also meets the requirements of AIS Level B
• Pool lifesaving with adjustments also meets the requirements of AIS Level B
• Disability programs following risk assessment, specifically of independence and confidence in the water and need or otherwise for holds and/or contact may meet the requirements of AIS Level B
While Royal Life Saving expects that many will be disappointed that current social distancing rules impact on programs that require close physical contact for instructional and safety purposes, it points to the benefits of this wider outcome and will continue to seek adjustments in consultation with Government and industry.
Royal Life Saving has noted that it appreciates the argument being put that social distancing in schools may provide a more relaxed approach in due course for the learn-to-swim sector.
On 8th May 2020, the Australian Government COVID-19 released its three-step plan for easing restrictions. This three-step plan is significant for the aquatic industry and swim schools and involves gathering restrictions in three increments: up to 10 people, up to 20 people, up to 100 people. This is a key component of the AHPPC public health advice to the National Cabinet.
This stepped approach is being implemented by State and Territory Governments. In some cases this has been interpreted on a pool by pool basis, which means that where an aquatic facility has two swimming pools, these facilities may have two lots of 10 people at the venue. Unfortunately, in some cases the notion of one person per lane has been retained, even though this position has been updated in the AIS Framework.
The viability of re-opening aquatic facilities and swim schools is significantly impacted by these 10-, 20-, 100-people gathering restrictions. However, there are some considerations/adjustments that should be sought.
Regarding venue gathering restrictions, Royal Life Saving notes:
• The removal of previous advice regarding one person per lane (in updated AIS Framework)
• Aquatic facilities are often large-scale venues, highly supervised environments that implement many risk controls, including zonal management for user activities and groups
• Covering key expenses, including maintenance, energy is reliant on high venue utilisation rates
On this basis, we support, but have not tested, the position that:
• Aquatic facilities are large-scale venues with the capacity to manage social distancing across multiple groups of 10, 20 or 100 people, using zonal management
• Multiple groups (ie, 2 x 10, 20, 100 people) should be allowable in a swimming pool where social distancing and one person per four square meters can be achieved
• The policy of one person per swimming pool lane, should be replaced in State and Territory policies with the AIS updated position of “with limited numbers maintaining social distancing requirements” (updated 8th May 2020).
Image: Swim and Survive program activity at the Sunshine Leisure Centre. Courtesy of Royal Life Saving Society - Australia.
30th April 2020 - ASSA raises concerns over future of swim schools
24th March 2020 - ASCTA/Swim Australia release Coronavirus guidance for swim schools
8th March 2020 - Aquatic facilities react to Coronavirus fears
27th February 2020 - Royal Life Saving helps new migrants with learn to swim and water safety program
2nd December 2019 - Royal Life Saving recognises Toowoomba residents
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