While we want to be carefree and frolic in the sun and water (especially after such a long winter), we still need to be mindful of water safety.

Some Preventative Measures: Your Part

The following guidelines come from Lifesaving Society’s 2011 Waterfront Safety Guidelines. It is the most recent, best-practices document for waterfront safety guidelines. It “assists waterfront owners and operators in providing a safe aquatic environment for their patrons” (2011 Waterfront Safety Guidelines).

Minimum Guidelines for Waterfronts: Every owner and operator has a responsibility to keep their beach and designated swimming area in a safe condition. What does this look like?

MOST DESIRABLE: Lifeguard supervision is desirable, because less than 1% of drownings occur in a lifeguard supervised setting (Ontario Drowning Report 2018 Edition, Lifesaving Society).

“Supervised waterfront” means “an area designated for swimming where safety supervision is provided by lifeguards”. In contrast, an “unsupervised waterfront” is “an area that is suitable and used for swimming where no safety supervision is provided” (2011 Waterfront Safety Guidelines).

We realize having a supervised waterfront might not always be practicable or affordable. If this is the case, where no lifeguard supervision is provided, the guidelines recommend that the owner/operator ensure that the waterfront is operated according to the following:


Signs are posted at entrance/exits or at reasonable intervals near the swimming area indicating:

  • “Swimming area is not supervised; children require direct supervision by parents or adults”
  • “Don’t swim alone”
  • “Waterfront conditions (depth, bottom, etc.) may change”

In addition to the above, your signage should also indicate:

  • Location of telephone or other communication device(s) for emergency use, and the location of the closest first-aid station
  • Diving can result in serious injury or death; patrons are cautioned against diving and to perform only foot-first entries
  • Waterfront hours of operation where applicable (e.g., no swimming dusk till dawn)
  • Any beach safety rules, such as: “No dogs unless service dogs”; “No fires”; “No glass”; etc.
  • Name of facility and operated by:______
  • Report any site deficiencies to:______
  • In areas where swimming is dangerous but the shoreline is easily accessible, signs should be posted stipulating: “No Swimming”

Rescue Equipment

In areas where guests or the public are invited to swim but the waterfront is not supervised, or when lifeguards have gone off duty; the owner or operator should provide rescue equipment in conveniently-located places for emergency use. Rescue equipment includes: a Reaching Pole at least 3m in length; and a Buoyant-Throwing Aid attached to a 6mm line at least 8m long.


Visit our Resource Centre to download our Sample Signage for Unsupervised Waterfronts.

Have further questions? Contact your Gougeon Risk Expert.

Should you wish to purchase a copy of the 2011 Waterfront Safety Guidelines, please visit Lifesaving Society’s website: here.

Click on the images to enlarge them (Source: Ontario Drowning Report 2018 Edition, Lifesaving Society)

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Click on the images to enlarge them (Source: Ontario Drowning Report 2018 Edition, Lifesaving Society)

Topics: Summer Resort, Safety, water safety, business risk, prevention strategies, safety tips, risk management, waterfront safety, resort risk management, Signage, Resources

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