Lifeguard Bill No. 3993

by Gerald M. Dworkin
January 27, 1997


The Massachusetts Lifeguard Bill No. 3993, if passed, will require the lessee, tenant or program operator of a recreational campground, which is an establishment whose main purpose is to attract and accommodate campers and their children on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, shall provide lifeguard service at a swimming pool having a depth of three or more feet within such aforementioned campground. A lifeguard providing such service shall be at least seventeen years of age and hold a current Red Cross emergency water safety rating or equivalent and a current American Heart Association or American Red Cross CPR Certificate.

Although we applaud the intent of this legislation as a method by which to reduce drownings and aquatic injuries at recreational campground swimming pools, it is our belief that lifeguards should not be required unless they are part of a comprehensive lifeguard system which includes the following components:

(A) Appropriate Lifeguard Training consisting of training and certification in a complete lifeguard training program (i.e. American Red Cross Lifeguard Training, YMCA Lifeguard Training, Ellis & Associates Lifeguard Training);
(B) Knowledge and skill screening of all lifeguard candidates prior to being hired at the facility;
(C) Site specific pre-service training to include hazard recognition, rules and regulations, enforcement policies and procedures, surveillance procedures, emergency operations, use of facility safety and rescue equipment, Standard Operating Procedures, safety and emergency communications.
(D) On-going in-service training and physical conditioning to include, daily workouts, emergency response drills, review of basic skills, and equipment use drills.

It is our belief that to mandate lifeguard personnel at a facility simply to fill a position requiring a warm body provides a false sense of security for the patrons using that particular facility. We do agree that having trained personnel adds an additional level of safety for the patrons at that facility. But, if the lifeguard personnel are not vigilant or adequately trained to (1) prevent incidents, (2) recognize patrons in distress, activities that place patrons at risk, or physical hazards, and (3) manage an incident, then the facility is actually safer without the lifeguards.

While consulting for a defense attorney in a case involving a near-drowning incident in a hotel swimming pool which resulted in severe neurological damage to a small child, the plaintiffs expert witness, from a nearby University, stated in his deposition that had a lifeguard been present, the near-drowning incident would have been prevented. Four days after this expert witness made this statement, a person drowned at the University swimming pool with five lifeguards on duty at the time of the incident.

Therefore, if a comprehensive lifeguard system cannot be guaranteed, in lieu of lifeguards, we recommend the following:
(A) Appropriate signage indicating No Lifeguard On Duty and Parents Are Responsible For Supervising Children At All Times;
(B) An emergency communication system in place at the aquatic facility to alert other patrons of the incident, as well as to communicate with local Fire and Rescue services;
(C) Campground management and staff trained in Aquatics Safety, First Aid, and CPR principles and procedures;
(D) Availability of rescue equipment at the aquatic facility consisting of the following: ring buoy and line, rescue tube, shepherds crook, first aid equipment, resuscitation equipment (i.e. personal resuscitation shield, personal resuscitation mask, bag-valve-mask resuscitators, suction device), bloodborne pathogen protection equipment, spinal injury management equipment (i.e. backboard with straps, head immobilizer, and cervical collars).

The rescue equipment listed above would be required for use by other patrons and campground staff who might be trained in its use.

We do not advocate the elimination of lifeguard personnel at aquatic facilities. However, we do advocate the need for a comprehensive lifeguard system. Failure to provide anything less presents a false sense of security to the patrons using the facility which places more people at risk of injury or death.

Print Article