Park Board modifies aquatic service schedules as lifeguard shortages continue
Pool closures and program cancellations are always a last resort, but unlike other industries facing staff shortages, without the presence of lifeguards to maintain a safe environment for swimmers, aquatic facilities cannot operate.
Director of Recreation Services Steve Kellock
The ongoing lifeguard shortage has been affecting aquatic 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 swim sessions, and on occasion, close facilities entirely.
“Pool closures and program cancellations are always a last resort, but unlike other industries facing staff shortages, without the presence of lifeguards to maintain a safe environment for swimmers, aquatic facilities cannot operate,” says Steve Kellock, Director of Recreation Services. “As an immediate solution to the issue, a revised schedule for outdoor aquatic operations has been created to help reduce the frequency of session cancellations.”
Changes take effect Saturday, August 6
As of August 6, 2022, the operational changes to outdoor pool sessions will be implemented. Kits Pool will see a reduction in evening sessions during the week as well as mornings and evening sessions on the weekend. The 9:30am morning session at Second Beach has been cancelled and the first session will now start at 12:15pm. New Brighton’s schedule will remain as is, but there may be a smaller capacity allotted for the later evening swims, depending on staffing.
The number of swimmers allowed in a pool at any given time is not just based on the size of the facility, but also on the number of lifeguards available. Each location in Vancouver determines their total capacity based on a visitor-to-lifeguard ratio to ensure each session is safely supervised.
In anticipation for this season, 152 lifeguards were hired; however, the total number of lifeguards is still down 30% compared to pre-COVID levels. While 152 lifeguards may seem like a lot, this number only reflects the total number of lifeguards in the system, and does not accurately depict the number of lifeguards available on a day-to-day basis to take shifts.
Recreation Services continues to recruit lifeguards, and candidates are encouraged to apply online. The outdoor Lifeguard I positions, has a starting wage of $30.81 per hour with an additional 12% in lieu of benefits, totalling $34.51 per hour. By comparison, the City of Toronto recently raised their base lifeguarding wage External website, opens in new tab from $17.80 to $21.19 per hour.
Staffing levels have also been impacted as a result of lifeguard certification programs being reduced or paused completely during the pandemic. This has caused a two-year delay between potential new hires of lifeguards and current staff. These programs are back up and running, and should assist in alleviating some of the pressure over the next couple years.