Lifesaving Awards Overview

Explanatory Notes

  1. The framework of this Examination Syllabus is set out as follows:
    • Group 1 – Swim Awards
    • Group 2 – Challenge Awards
    • Group 3 – Safety Awards
    • Group 4 – Endurance / Survival Awards
    • Group 5 – Rescue Awards
    • Group 6 – Basic Life Support
  2. The syllabus is designed to test, in progressive phases, theoretical knowledge and practical expertise as set down in Irish Water Safety’s Handbooks.
  3. While land drill is not a specific test item, it must be regarded as an invaluable teaching technique.
  4. Instructors and Examiners should ensure that their names are included in the official register (membership) kept at Irish Water Safety Head Office.
  5. Irish Water Safety Head Office should be informed of inactive members.
  6. When presenting a class for examination, the Instructors shall ensure that the necessary prerequisites for the tests are in order.
  7. Examinations shall be conducted by official examiners only, except in the following where Instructors may examine:
    1. Swim Awards: Seal Levels 1-5. Marlin Levels 6-10. Orca Levels 11-15.
    2. Challenge Awards: Challenge 1 and 2.
    3. Safety Awards: Safety 1, 2, and 3 only.
    4. Endurance / Survival Awards: Endurance 1 and 2 onlyNote: An Instructor may not examine his/her own class. An Instructor cannot examine BLS in the Safety Awards. Where an Instructor is examining Safety 2 and 3 Awards the examination must be conducted in the presence of an Examiner. The Examiners role is supervisory only. It is not mandatory for Instructors to examine; they should only examine Safety 2 and 3 Awards, when there are no Examiners available.
  8. BLS 1 must be achieved before progressing from the Safety Awards.
  9. Examinations of family relatives are not best practice and should be avoided.


Swim Awards

Graded tests for beginners with emphasis on personal safety, swimming, basic rescue and personal survival skills.

Challenge Awards

Graded test to increase stamina and introduce swimming whilst clothed.

Safety Awards

Graded tests to improve the introductory aspect of rescue.

Endurance / Survival Awards

Graded tests with the emphasis on self-rescue and physical fitness.

Rescue Awards

Graded tests of the four components necessary for successful rescues - skill, knowledge, judgement, and fitness.

Basic Life Support Awards

Tests of Basic Life Support knowledge and of vital follow up procedures.


The purpose of guidelines are:
  1. To aid Instructors/Examiners in understanding more thoroughly the requirements of each award in our syllabus.
  2. To help standardise examinations throughout the country.
  3. To clarify test items where appropriate. The test items must be read in conjunction with the guidelines at all times

Scenario Guidelines

  1. In all scenarios the rescuer(s) know nothing about the scene unless the Examiner tells them.
  2. The subject(s) will give the necessary information only if asked a specific question as outlined by the Examiner beforehand.
  3. Face down or submerged subjects are assumed to be unconscious.
  4. Examiner should at all stages maintain control over condition of subject(s), situation details and especially safety.
  5. Rescuer(s) should be informed of changing condition(s) of subject(s) and situation details.
  6. Examiner will indicate the start and end of the scenario.
  7. Rescuer(s) will be required to explain their actions on completion. In all open water scenarios, distance from shore not to exceed 25m.

The Period of Validity

Lifesaving Awards The validity period for these awards shall be as per the syllabus. Where this period of time has elapsed the following conditions will apply:
     Period Elapsed      Requirement
     Greater than 2 years      Repeat highest award taken to date.
     Greater than 4 years      Recommence water safety course at Safety4.
Instructors and trainee instructors may be exempt from the above at the discretion of the Area Committee.