1. What is your gender?     Answered: 237 Skipped: 3

Male:36.29% = 86
Female: 63.71% = 151

2,What is your age?    Answered: 239 Skipped: 1

16-20 yrs:28.45% = 68
21-25 yrs: 29.29% = 70
25+ yrs: 42.26% = 101

3. Do you use Marijuana?  Answered: 238        Skipped: 2

No; 81.51% = 194
1-2 times per week: 7.56% = 18
3-5 times per week: 1.68% = 4
5+ times: 9.24% = 22

4. Does using marijuana before or while lifeguarding affect your ability to provide safety supervision?   Answered: 184 Skipped: 56

No effect: 39.13% = 72
Positively: 14.67% = 27
Negatively: 46.20% = 85

5. Where do you live?  Answered: 236  Skipped: 4

Alberta: 4.24% = 10
British Columbia: 9.32% = 22
New Brunswick: 0.42% = 1
Newfoundland & Labrador:1.27% = 3
Nova Scotia: 0.85% = 2
Manitoba: 4.24% = 10
Ontario: 76.27% = 180
Prince Edward Island: 0.00% = 0
Quebec: 2.12% = 5
Saskatchewan: 0.42% = 1
Territories (Yukon/ Northwest/ Nunavut: 0.85% = 2

Fall 2016

Intervention is Prevention!

            The City of Edmonton plans to install underwater cameras at city pools.

While the City's intention maybe an understandable response to drownings in its facilities; this particular answer is merely a quick fix to a more complicated situation, and shows a real lack of understanding of the job of lifeguarding. Drowning is silent and quick! Effective lifeguarding means intervening in situations BEFORE they happen.

Aquatic managers and supervisors must put layers of protection in place for their patrons which includes; having an effective admissions policy; ensuring young children and non-swimmers are identified; that there are sufficient lifeguards in the right, on-deck positions; that good safety supervision is always practiced, including prevention and rule enforcement and that all lifeguard have solid rescue skills.

For the full story: http://myinforms.com/en-ca/a/43592866-edmonton-to-install-underwater-cameras-at-city-pools-8211-but-are-they-a-good-idea/

Teaching Adults to Swim
A meaningful approach to reducing drowning
By Cheryl Sibany - Swim Life Magazine ©2016

For many adults, as children, their social and economic situation or ethnicity created barriers, which limited their access to swimming lessons. Now as adults they are often embarrassed they can't swim, and believe they are too old to learn.  For others who have had a traumatic experience, water has become a source of fear and dread. From experience, I know that parents, who can swim, are far more likely to ensure their children can swim and they have a much better understanding the dangers of being around water.

Results from a 2010 study showed that new Canadian adults were four times more likely to be unable to swim than those born in Canada. In 2016, a study commissioned by the Lifesaving Society of Canada suggests [i] that new Canadian tweens (11-14 years old), are five times more likely to be unable to swim than their classmates.

Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 9 and the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14[ii]. In the United States, about 50% of Americans either fear deep water or cannot swim; almost 4,000 people die from drowning each year.  American researchers have identified that African-American and Hispanic children and youth are less likely to swim and are at greater risk of drowning then white Americans. Similarly, in Germany boys and girls with a low socioeconomic status and children having both of their parents born outside of Germany are more likely to be non-swimmers. [iii]


We know that there is a strong connection between a parent’s swimming skills and their child’s swimming skills. Parents who were not able to participate in swimming lessons as children are afraid of drowning, and are less likely to encourage their children to swim, as they believe it is a risk. Conversely, non-swimming parents simply do not understand what basic swimming skills look like, [iv] often underestimating the risk of drowning when their children have learned some basic swimming skills.

In Canada 19.1% of the total population identify as visible minorities. 30.9% were born in Canada and 65.1% were born outside the country[v]. Because so many cannot swim, aquatic activities that improve health and longevity are absent, and most importantly this places large number of Canadians at risk of drowning.[vi] 

Parents, who are active, have children who are active. Swimming can be an important source of physical activity across an individual’s life-span. Teaching adults to swim will not only create new opportunities to improve adult health and well-being, it will lead to greater participation of their children.  Researchers have found that parents influence the physical activity of their children,[vii]  which can be either positive or negative. Parents, who can swim, are more likely to have children who can swim.

As an instructor I feel honored to have helped adult learners overcome their anxiety, and fear. It is a satisfying and humbling experience to teach adults at any age to swim. Teaching adults to swim can be a meaningful approach to reducing drowning in Canada.


Some References:

[i]  The Influence of Ethnicity on Tweens Swimming & Water Safety in Canada Research conducted by Gadd Research May 2016;  and   http://www.lifesavingsociety.com/media/239967/2016newsreleasefinal. Study reveals new Canadian ‘tweens’ at higher risk for drowning Lifesaving Society finds new Canadians aged 11-14 are five times more likely to be unable to swim Toronto, ON – June 28, 2016

[ii]  http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

[iii]  Social Determinants of Swimming Ability among Children and Adolescents in Germany. Published, June 2016 Kuntz B, Frank L, Manz K, Rommel A, Lampert T - ROBERT KOCH INSTITUTE, Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring

[iv]  Are parents just treading water? The impact of participation in swim lessons on parents’ judgments of children's drowning risk, swimming ability, and supervision needs; Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 50, Issue null, Pages 1169-1175. Barbara A. Morrongiello, Megan Sandomierski, David C. Schwebel, Brent Hagel

[v]  Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada - http://www.statcan.gc.ca

[vi]  https://www.stepintoswim.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Whitepaper-2016SIS1-newlogo.pdf National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF®).

[vii]   Parental Factors That Influence Swimming in Children and Adolescents Jennifer Pharr, 2014, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, jennifer.farr@unlv.edu Jennifer Pharr University of Nevada, Las Vegas, jennifer.farr@unlv.edu Carol C. Irwin University of Memphis Richard L. Irwin University of Memphis


Teaching Adults to Swim
The Fundamentals of Swimming

By Cheryl Sibany - Swim Life Magazine ©2016

The fundamentals of swimming are the same skills whether you are a child or an adult. However learning those skills is a very different path for adults. Teaching physical skills is about providing effective opportunities and tasks that will allow the learner to experience and experiment how their body moves in the water. To be able to perform the skill well, the teacher guides the performance of basic skills to mastery.

Swimming involves the following basic skills;

  • breath control (breath- holding/ control and then coordination with strokes),
  • weight transfer and balance,
  • floating (various positions), gliding (various positions),
  • surface support,
  • And the ability to use your arms and legs to propel yourself through the water and of course entries.

In much of the world we teach three common strokes in the following order, front Crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke.  I have found that a more effective approach teaching adults reverse the order of stroke progress, with breast stroke being introduced first, followed by backstroke and ending with front crawl. On the way to these most recognizable strokes I add in a few favorites.  Elementary back stroke to facilitate the learning of the whip kick, and side stroke because it is simple to learn and neither require the coordination of breathing with swimming.

Approaching the learning of swimming for adults must also be different to be effective.  A child learns by watching, experimenting and then acquiring the skill.  This is precisely how we learned to walk and later ride a bike.  However, adults’ learning is not as direct.  For example; an adult will need to be guided through standing up from front and back floats something children do with little effort.   Instructors will need to break down skills into more steps to ensure the adult learner’s success.   Adults and teens must understand what the entire skill will look like before they will attempt it.  They must understand the basic physiology behind the skill or stroke before they will even try it, and they must trust you.  `

Many programs promise only shallow water classes to new adult swimmers.  I believe it is irresponsible for swim instructors not to teach personal lifesaving skills to adults. It is vital to teach new swimmers the skills they need to return to safety should they fall or step into deep water; additionally these skills to add confidence to the novice swimmers.Fundamental swim skills are not difficult for adult learners, overcoming the fear of water is the challenge.  Understanding how adults learn, being flexible in your approach and expectations will assist with success. The experience for both the student and the teacher is worthwhile and is a truly shared reward. 

Swim Life Magazine


  • Ontario Human Rights Commission - Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing April 7, 2016, Also available online: www.ohrc.on.ca
  • http://www.bcmj.org/worksafebc/determining-fitness-work-safety-sensitive-jobs
  • http://www.ohscanada.com/features/impairment-versus-intrusion-drugs-and-alcohol-in-safety-sensitive-positions/
  • https://ohsonline.com/articles/2016/02/01/marijuana-use-and-its-impact-on-workplace-safety-and-productivity.aspx
  • http://www.rbs.ca/newsroom-publications-290.html
  • Young workers’ work values, attitudes, and behaviours, Catherine Loughlin* and Julian Barling. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (2001), 74, 543–558 Printed in Great Britain 2001 The British Psychological Society.
  • Effects of Cannabis on Psychomotor Skills and Driving Performance - a Metaanalysis of Experimental Studies, G Berghaus, N Scheer, P Schmidt, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Cologne, Melatengürtel 60, 50832 Cologne, Germany.


Marijuana and Lifeguarding 

By Cheryl Sibany - Swim Life Magazine ©2016


It is recognized that young workers are significantly more likely than older, more experienced workers to be injured while at work. Risk taking behaviour is the norm for teens and young adults, which is a developing issue that includes the use of Marijuana in the workplace. The most concerning factor to supervisors is that Marijuana usage indicators are more difficult to recognize than other substances. We have really no idea if the lifeguards we have on our pool deck at any given time are actually fit to lifeguard.

Young workers constitute the bulk of recreational employees, including Lifeguards and Instructors who are delivering programs and providing safety supervision. Understanding their attitudes and behaviors’ regarding Marijuana use, as well as its possible effect on workplace safety and job performance is an important inquiry.

During the summer months of 2016 I conducted a survey on this question attempting to gauge the attitudes and behaviors’ of current lifeguards and their perception of the influence of Marijuana use on their job performance.  I found that over 9% of respondents believed using marijuana had either no effect or a positive effect on lifeguarding. 

Studies to date have shown that cannabinoids do impact psychomotor skills relevant to driving behaviour. Cannabis effects include alterations in reaction time, perception, short-term memory, attention, motor skills, tracking, and skilled activities, which are all relevant to the effective provision of safety supervision and rescue response.

The purpose of the study was to understand the attitudes and behaviors’ of lifeguards concerning the use of marijuana before or during lifeguarding, so as to assist employers in developing workplace policies and practices; and to assist in the planning of effective lifeguard education strategies and performance standards that can be set for lifeguards across Canada.

During July 2016 I posted an on-line Survey Monkey Questionnaire, titled Lifeguarding & Marijuana? to which 249 lifeguards responded. The results to one particular question really surprised me: “Does using marijuana before or while lifeguarding effect your ability to provide safety supervision?” 53% of those who responded to the question thought there was no effect or a positive effect.


Workplace Safety: It is recognized that young workers are significantly more likely than older experienced worker to be injured while at work. Risk taking behaviour is a ritual for teens and young adults. Consultation, training and effective communication with employees becomes vital when employees are working in safety-sensitive positions. For lifeguards who have their cognitive and physical abilities compromised by the use of Marijuana, it may not be possible to assign alternative work as it may place undue hardship on the organization.

 “Safety-sensitive jobs are ones where impaired performance, for whatever reason, could result in a significant incident affecting the health or safety of employees, customers, customers’ employees, the public, property, or the environment.”

Legal Medical Marijuana: The use of Medical Marijuana will continue to increase across Canada; employers will be required to make changes to their workplace policies to ensure they are complying with their obligations.

Medical Marijuana involves the same accommodation as any other doctor prescribed drug. However, employees do not have a right to be impaired in the workplace where their impairment may endanger their own safety, the safety of co-workers and by extension, the public. Employers must effectively communicate the responsibilities of their employees seeking to use medical marijuana.

The employer may then be required to assign the lifeguard to other duties that don't present a safety risk, or grant a medical leave of absence and reinstate the employee to their former position once they have recovered.

Recreational Users: The future legalization of marijuana will influence recreational users’ behaviour and it is prudent to prepare specifically for a normalization of marijuana consumption.  Although the use of marijuana will no longer be a criminal offence, workplace rules that apply to the impairment or possession and use of marijuana at work should continue to apply to all recreational users as it would for alcohol. It will be very important to ensure polices and sanctions are clear; an ideal approach would be for employers to consider adapting policies to the circumstances.

For Lifeguards and others involved in the safety supervision, employers should develop pre-employment performance tests related to the fundamental parts of the lifeguards’ job. Employers and supervisor should plan regular on-the-job performance observations and audits, as well as train peers assess and to report behaviour that can affect safety.

​​​​249 Active lifeguards responded to the following questions

1. What is your gender?

2. What is your age?
16-20 yrs. 
21-25 yrs
25+ yrs.

3. Do you use Marijuana?
1-2 times per week 
3-5 times per week
5+ times

4. Does using marijuana before or while lifeguarding

affect your ability to provide safety supervision? 
No effect

 5.  Where do you live?
British Columbia 
New Brunswick 
Newfoundland & Labrador 
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Territories (Yukon/ Northwest/ Nunavut)