The Lifeguard Shortage Might Limit Your Access to Pools and Beaches This Summer

Amid the many shortages this year, lifeguards are hard to find. What's causing the lifeguard shortage in 2022?

Anuradha Garg - Author

May 31 2022, Published 5:39 a.m. ET

A person standing on a lifeguard platform
Source: Pexels

Pool openings across the U.S. are being delayed and some canceled altogether due to another shortage of lifeguards. According to the American Lifeguard Association, the shortage of lifeguards could prevent about a third of the 309,000 pools across the country from opening. What's causing the lifeguard shortage in 2022, and could it restrict your access to pools this summer?

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Lifeguards are vital and literally save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 4,000 unintentional drownings per year, with an average of 11 drownings per day.

Shortages galore

People worldwide are facing a shortage of many things and skilled people. Supply-chain issues that started with the pandemic are ongoing. While the demand for goods and services has returned with a bang, the supply side has yet to recover, worsening the demand-supply balance.

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lifeguards pay bonus
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Issues faced by lifeguards

Lifeguards were already facing issues prior to the pandemic. Low pay, especially after training costs needed and a limited working season, was one.

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According to Bernard J. Fisher II, director of health and safety at the lifeguard association, the pandemic forced the closure of pools and training sessions, and many potential lifeguards started applying for other jobs that offered higher pay. He also said that this is the worst shortage he's seen over his 50 years of lifeguard experience.

Pandemic hit the lifeguard profession hard

Another area where the pandemic hit lifeguard hiring was the foreign citizens pool. A number of agencies depend on foreign workers, who became much more difficult to get due to visa restrictions.

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How to correct the lifeguard shortage

Some ways to correct the lifeguard shortage could be to raise their pay and incentives (like the city of Phoenix, which has announced it's offering a $2,500 bonus incentive for lifeguards). Many states are upping their hourly rates and adding to bonuses and incentives, waiving training costs to attract new lifeguards and retain existing ones.

Fisher suggested another option to correct this situation. He believes the U.S. could tap into categories of lifeguards that weren't previously considered, such as retired people, which he calls the “silver group.” Until these measures are applied, however, Americans might have to contend with limited access to swimming pools and beaches this summer.


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