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Innovating lifeguard training around the world - The Pool Rescue Manikin

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Often, our best ideas come from speaking with working professionals, who have become frustrated with training and are looking for a better solution – that is exactly how the Pool Rescue Manikin was born!

We were initially approached by our Canadian Distributors ALG Safety, whose daughter Alisha was a working lifeguard. She was convinced that the usual method of lifeguard training could be improved and asked us if we could help find a solution.

Traditionally, lifeguard training saw trainees switching between plastic half torsos and volunteers part way through a scenario. It created a ‘disjointed’ process which did not accurately represent the true challenge of retrieving an unconscious body from the water, towing it to the side and then lifting it from the water.


Finding a solution

After speaking with Alisha, we began developing ideas for a manikin – but it was an interesting conundrum – this manikin needed to sink to the bottom of the pool for retrieval from deep water, but also needed to be buoyant enough to float when towed effectively! A manikin that should sink AND float?! That would be a challenge!

We tested several prototype manikins over the coming months, using different materials and weights to find the correct borderline buoyancy. Our local swimming pool Corwen Leisure Centre were fantastic in facilitating testing of these prototypes too!

We knew the manikin needed to create a seamless rescue scenario, where trainees could retrieve it from deep water, tow it to the side of the pool and then lift it safely from the water. This video tells you what the lifeguards at Corwen thought about using the manikin.


Working with industry experts

Working with industry experts is essential when developing new products. Afterall, YOU know how you need your manikin to behave during specified training scenarios and what is or isn’t important!

We therefore approached the Royal Lifesaving Society UK for further advice and guidance. The RLSS (UK) helped us with further testing and amendments to the prototype manikin, facilitating the use of trained RLSS lifeguards and gathering feedback on the manikin’s performance in training. They also gave us more information about the IQL Qualification so that we could learn more about the responsibilities of lifeguards – essential to allow us to create the right product!

During these tests we also identified that the manikin was useful for practising extrication from the pool using a rescue board, including the PXB, plus a variety of poolside rescues including from the flumes or emergency fire evacuation and was also useful for Zone Visibility tests.



Designed by lifeguards for lifeguards

We are thrilled with the growing popularity for the Pool Rescue manikin, thanks largely to its relevance to the industry who helped to create it! In the UK it is sold through RLSS Direct, and internationally through a network of Distributors.

The Pool Rescue Manikin has received fantastic feedback from working lifeguards all around the world. It is currently sold into more than 20 countries, with particular popularity in Canada thanks to the enthusiasm of ALG Safety –who gave us the original inspiration for the product.

Here are some comments from working lifeguards :


“I would hands down recommend this training product to any aquatic facility looking to beef up the calibre of instruction or staff training. I don’t rep products for money, so you know the manikin is absolutely something I can get behind as a lifeguard, trainer and instructor trainer.”

Katie Crysdale, Lakeview Aquatic Consultants Ltd – Canada



“Swam with Ruth Lee for the first time at Craig Tara Haven over the last fortnight. Most realistic in water casualty I’ve used in 25 years. Sinking Steve and Drowning Dave (the orange and yellow torsos) don’t have a patch on Ruth Lee!”

Rachyroo2004 – Instagram



“A great morning at HMS Collingwood training with the new Ruth Lee life size manikin. From deep water recovery, horizontal lift, to use on a rescue board (PXB) it proved to be a valuable asset when training lifeguards and their on-going monthly training sessions. Very real life like, heavy and clearly gives you experience of dead weight in water.”
Eddie Seaborne – RLSS Trainer UK



“The Ruth Lee manikins were of particular interest to us, as they give our staff the chance to train in as real life rescue situation as possible and they have the longevity to suit the ongoing training demands of our teams.”
Craig Valentine, Health and Safety Manager, Bourne Leisure – UK

"The weight of the manikin (30kg) is a real asset, and the presence of upper and lower limbs means the rescue ‘work’ is realistic. Once the search and the towing is complete, the candidate can train at the pool edge on their own or with a colleague. Simple rescue techniques can also be performed on the vital functions when using the manikin."
Ecoles De Formations Aquatiques De Grenoble - France



A new kid on the block

Its popularity is such that further development work was undertaken to create a second model for this range, the Junior Pool Rescue manikin.

With a shortened height of 1.1m and a weight of 16kg it represents a child between the ages of 4-5. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) demonstrate that this age group are at an increased risk of death from drowning and feedback from lifeguards told us that this smaller sized manikin would be a popular choice.



World Conference on Drowning Prevention - Durban 2019

In October 2019 we were pleased to have the opportunity to showcase both of these manikins at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP), along with other manikins in our water rescue range.

The WCDP is the foremost event for the lifesaving community, with an emphasis on best practise around the world which leads to a reduced number of deaths from drowning. Many of our colleagues in the industry presented (including the RLSS (UK), Surf Lifesaving (GB) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI)) and we took part in the exhibition, where delegates were extremely interested in the range of water rescue manikins and how these could be incorporated into their own training practises to improve outcomes.


As a company, Ruth Lee Ltd is focused on helping professionals who save lives to improve their training with products which are high-quality and fit-for-purpose. If each lifeguard who trains with our manikin saves more lives as a result of their improved training, we will feel like we will have achieved our goal.

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