In some ways, John Oliver could be considered the first aquatics “YouTube star.” He started as an intern at West Bend Mutual Insurance in 2008 with just a love of swimming and some knowledge of insurance/risk management. Now he’s the company’s marketing and safety specialist, making waves as creator of “The 10 Commandments of Lifeguarding.” The innovative series of short Web videos has garnered more than 10,000 views on YouTube.
Oliver started the 10 Commandments idea as a blog post, but he and his colleagues quickly recognized that it had much greater potential. Now, it’s a full video series, and available online for free.
According to Oliver, it is designed to “transform [key training information] into a more accessible resource” that pool operators and lifeguard instructors can use as a training tool. The commandments include lifeguarding best practices such as “Always be rescue ready,” and “Uphold pool rules consistently and fairly.”
Oliver grew up in Southern California and participated on a summer swim team, but never worked as a guard. He attended the University of Wisconsin, planning to follow his father and stepmother into the insurance business. When he started at West Bend, the company wanted to do more to serve its recreational clients, including YMCAs, swim clubs, camps and fitness clubs. Oliver was charged with focusing on aquatics. He completed a Red Crosslifeguard training course and says he considers his instructor, Bonnie Griswold, an important mentor.
“I can call her if I have a question or need some feedback,” Oliver says of Griswold, a longtime aquatics professional and frequent contributor to the blog Oliver manages for West Bend, Culture of Safety.
For now, Oliver hopes the "10 Commandments" videos will be an important contribution to the industry, but he’s not stopping there.
Last year, the 25-year-old was instrumental in establishing a partnership between West Bend and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Pool Safely Campaign. He says he sees a lot more potential for additional online engagement ahead. Stay tuned!