A good lifeguard is a responsible lifeguard. Lack of responsibility can cause on-the-job problems, possible drownings and, ultimately, firing.
Pool managers want their guards to act responsibly. But what is
responsible? How can aquatics professionals quantify
responsibility? More importantly, how is the concept of responsible
behavior translated into actual behavioral practice in a lifeguard
One way to answer those questions is with a responsibility pledge.
Such a pledge states specifically what is expected regarding
lifeguard behavior: a professional rescuer. In signing a pledge,
lifeguards acknowledge an understanding of what responsible
behavior means. That pledge also serves as a written record of
communication of behavioral expectations.
It’s a good idea to separate the pledge into two parts. The
first is a pledge card. The pledge card has the individual’s
name, date, signature line and the pledge itself — “I,
John Lifeguard, have read and now understand the responsibilities I
have as an employee of this aquatics facility. I agree to meet
these responsibilities to the best of my ability.”
Distribute two copies of this card and have your staff sign each of
them. Then collect one of the cards from each person and file it in
that individual’s personnel folder.
The second part of the pledge is an explanation of responsibilities
as well as responsibilities specific to the program and/or
facility. Distribute this part to the group before pledge cards are
signed, and read through it with them during in-service. Be sure to
clarify any questionable points. It’s imperative that your
staff completely understands your expectations and their
responsibilities. They are agreeing to meet these responsibilities
when they sign their pledge cards. This is also a good time to
explain consequences of not meeting those responsibilities.
So just what is in a responsibility pledge? Essentially, it is a
promise by your staff to adhere to the specific responsible
behaviors you want to see. This may vary slightly from facility to
facility and program to
program, but here are some basics to cover:
- Punctuality and professionalism. Includes
showing up on time and being properly attired and equipped.
- Behavior and manners. Encompasses how
guards treat patrons and peers.
- Facility and equipment maintenance.
Explains how equipment should be used, stored and treated.
- First aid supplies. Details who’s
responsible for keeping them stocked, as well as expectations
regarding restocking after an item is used.
- Paperwork. Gives clear directions for
completion of legible reports and emphasizes their importance as
- Performance. Clarifies what is meant by
surveillance and response. Anything that gets in the way of a
lifeguard’s legal duty violates this responsibility.
- Language. Stipulates professionals use
polite and considerate language at all times.
- Drugs and alcohol. Influence and/or
consumption of either is unacceptable during any and all work
hours. Consider urine testing.
- Security. Details locking of facility when
not in use, as well as maintaining patron safety in all locker room
and common areas.
- Certifications. Ongoing training and
certification is part of the job. Certifications must be kept
The best time to implement the responsibility pledge is at the
start of each season, as well as with any new hire that happens
during the season. In addition to having a copy of the pledge for
the individual and their file, the pledge can be a sign or poster
in the pool office for an ongoing reminder.
Remember, to be effective, the responsibility pledge must apply to
all staff members. Age, length of time on the job, level of
certification and friendships should not exempt anyone from
participating. Responsible behavior is important to everyone.