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Lifeguard Duties and Liability

Lifeguard Duties and Liability

Lifeguards are often hired by private and public facilities to monitor visitors while swimming. State and local laws may recognize that by being paid to perform lifeguard duties, these individuals are responsible for a certain standard of care while on duty. Lifeguards or their employers may be held legally responsible when a lifeguard fails to perform expected lifeguard duties. Individuals who wish to file a swimming accident lawsuit should speak with a qualified attorney to discuss the incident’s details and applicable state laws. Lifeguard Duties Lifeguard duties generally include maintaining constant supervision of the swimming area during designated shifts. In many cases, lifeguards are required to remain in a designated area such as an elevated post. Elevated posts allow lifeguards to easily and quickly survey the designated swimming area. As a general rule, the lifeguard should be able to survey the entire swimming area in less than 30 seconds. This allows adequate time to recognize and aid swimmer distress or other emergency situations. If a lifeguard is participating in activities such as swimming lessons, another “dry-land” lifeguard should also be on duty. Lifeguard Training While not necessarily required by law, best practices for lifeguard training include: Certification in standard lifeguarding techniques and procedures Rules and regulations for facility visitors Certification in water rescue and emergency medical services (EMS), such as first aid and CPR Use of specialized safety and rescue equipment Emergency action, response, and operation plans Procedures for emergency communication Risk management, including hazard and risk identification Orientation with the facility Lifeguard Liability On-duty lifeguards or their employers may be held legally liable when injury or death occurs at the swimming facility. Individuals are more likely to be liable when basic lifeguard duties were disregarded or performed negligently. Lifeguards should remain alert and aware of swimmers at all times. These individuals should be trained in recognizing signs of distress. When distress is indicated, lifeguards should be reasonably capable and competent in performing necessary procedures to remove swimmers from dangerous situations. For example, a lifeguard should be able to decipher between children playing in the water versus signs of drowning. If a lifeguard has adequate reason to believe a child is drowning, he or she should be properly trained to rescue the child from submersion. If necessary, the lifeguard should be qualified to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Good Samaritan Laws Many states hold “good Samaritan” laws, which may play a role in determining lifeguard duties and liability. Good Samaritan laws protect those who voluntarily help distressed or injured individuals at the scene of an incident. These laws may not be applicable in protecting paid lifeguards. By accepting payment for services, lifeguards typically accept a certain level of legal and social...

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