Brief History of National Lifeguard

National Lifeguard is the Industry Certification Standard for Lifeguards

Prior to 1964, lifeguard training standards were established and delivered by employers across Canada. Similar to most other countries, there were no recognized training standards or certifications. The Lifesaving Society, YMCA and Canadian Forces certified individuals through various lifesaving training programs, but none were designed for professional lifeguards.

The National Lifeguard Service was officially launched in 1964 in response to a need identified by employers for a single recognized lifeguard certification for those charged with the responsibility of supervising pools and waterfronts. The Lifesaving Society published the first Lifeguard Manual documenting the National Lifeguard training program.

The founding organizations - Society of Municipal Recreation Directors of Ontario, the Lifesaving Society, the Canadian Red Cross and the YMCA - formed a Directorate that managed National Lifeguard out of the Lifesaving Society National office.

By 1973, National Lifeguard was in need of promotion, financing and administrative support. The National Lifeguard became part of the Lifesaving Society Canada with the supporting organizations forming an Advisory Committee.

The National Lifeguard standard was revised and the first Alert: aquatic supervision in action published in February 1974.


First NLS badge

Since 1973, the Lifesaving Society has been the steward of National Lifeguard as the professional lifeguard certification standard in Canada. Content has been revised approximately every five years based on the input of lifeguard employers. Revisions have always been reviewed and supported by the National Lifeguard Advisory Committee. The National Lifeguard training program and its standard have been available to all employers without restriction. Agencies and employers can train their staff to the National Lifeguard standard using their own trainers and setting their own fees.

The National Lifeguard award is the sole industry-accepted standard and it is the only Canadian lifeguard standard recognized by the International Life Saving Federation.

Today the National Lifeguard Advisory Committee includes the Lifesaving Society, YMCA, Canadian Forces, Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, and Physical and Health Education Canada.