Pool closures and program cancellations are always a last resort, but unlike other industries that face staff shortages, aquatic facilities cannot operate without the presence of lifeguards to ensure a safe environment for swimmers.
Director of Leisure Services Steve Kellock
The ongoing lifeguard shortage has impacted water sports services across North America, and unfortunately, Vancouver is no exception.
As a direct result of these shortages, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has been forced to cancel swimming lessons and occasionally close facilities altogether.
“Pool closures and program cancellations are always a last resort, but unlike other industries that face staffing shortages, aquatic facilities cannot operate without the presence of lifeguards to ensure a safe environment for swimmers,” said Steve Kellock, Director of recreation services. “As an immediate solution to the problem, a revised outdoor water surgery schedule was created to reduce the frequency of session cancellations.”
The changes will take effect on Saturday, August 6th
From August 6th, 2022, the operational changes in the outdoor pool will be implemented. At Kits Pool, evening sessions are reduced during the week and morning and evening sessions at weekends. The 9:30 a.m. morning session at Second Beach has been canceled and the first session will now begin at 12:15 p.m. New Brighton’s schedule remains the same, however there may be reduced capacity for the pools later in the evening depending on staffing levels.
The number of swimmers allowed in a pool at any given time depends not only on the size of the facility, but also on the number of lifeguards available. Each Vancouver location determines its total capacity based on a visitor-to-lifeguard ratio to ensure each session is safely monitored.
Recruitment of lifeguards
In anticipation of this season, 152 lifeguards were hired; However, the total number of lifeguards is still down 30% compared to pre-COVID. While 152 lifeguards may seem like a lot, this number only reflects the total number of lifeguards in the system and does not accurately reflect the number of lifeguards available for shifts each day.
Recreation Services continues to recruit lifeguards and candidates are encouraged to apply online. The outdoor Lifeguard I positions have a starting wage of $30.81 per hour with an additional 12% in lieu of benefits for a total of $34.51 per hour. In comparison, the city of Toronto recently increased its base lifeguard wage External website, opens in new tab from $17.80 to $21.19 per hour.
Staffing levels have also been impacted by lifeguard certification programs being reduced or suspended entirely during the pandemic. This has resulted in a two-year lag between potential new lifeguard hires and current staff. These programs are up and running again and should help ease some of the pressure over the next few years.