Lifeguards may be subject to tougher qualifications under a government plan to amend the laws regulating private swimming pools. In January of last year, lifeguards from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department were required to upgrade their qualifications from Bronze Medallion to Pool Lifeguard Award and Beach Lifeguard Award in line with the higher standards sought by the Hong Kong Life Saving Society. The higher qualifications give lifeguards specific training in using equipment to better handle and prevent accidents, in addition to basic life saving skills. But the new regulations do not apply to lifeguards at private pools. In a written response to a question by independent lawmaker Ng Leung-sing in the Legislative Council, Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping said the government would seek an amendment to the law to bring private lifeguards in line with government-employed ones. He said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department would submit an amendment to Legco to upgrade the qualifications needed 'to better protect bathers at private swimming pools and to achieve consistency in the qualification for lifeguards working at public and private swimming pools'. Mr Ng also asked about the number of accidents in pools and beaches resulting from an absence of lifeguards, but Dr Ho said none were caused by a shortage of lifeguards. From 2001 to this May, there were 991 rescues and 12 fatalities in public swimming pools and bathing beaches managed by the government. There were four fatalities in private pools. In response to the accidents, the Life Saving Society had urged the department - which issues licences to private swimming pools - to follow public pools in requiring lifeguards to obtain the Pool Lifeguard Award.