Many aquatics operators are breathing a collective sigh
of relief after the U.S. Department of Labor rescinded a
portion of its enforcement position that forbade lifeguards
under age 16 to oversee waterparks.
Last summer, Labor said lifeguards under 16 were not
permitted to do so, leaving operators scrambling to find
workers of legal age. But after reviewing the decision at
the behest of an industry coalition, it revised that
position. The new ruling states that 15-year-olds may serve
as lifeguards at waterparks, except for dispatching or
attending the tops of water slides. Working at the top of a
slide is considered ?tending
However, 15-year-olds may serve as lifeguards at catch
pools at bottoms of water slides, on wave pools, lazy
rivers and play areas. Labor rules state that 15-year-olds
still may not work at natural bodies of water, including
oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, canals, piers or wharfs.
This policy has been recommended by the United States
Lifesaving Association since 1980, said B. Chris Brewster,
the group?s president.
The coalition that convinced Labor officials to change
their waterpark position included the National Recreation
& Park Association, the World Waterpark Association,
International Association of Amusement Parks and
Attractions, American Red Cross, Ellis & Associates,
National Aquatic Safety Council and Starfish Aquatics
?Many of our members employ a significant number
of 15-year-old lifeguards,? said Gina B. Kellogg,
WWA director of communications. ?This decision
lifts a huge burden off their shoulders.?
Other industry leaders are less enthusiastic.
?It?s kind of a good news, bad news
scenario,? said Tom Griffiths, past president of
NRPA?s National Aquatic Branch. ?To cover
our bases aquatically across the country, we need to employ
15-year-olds. On the other hand, ? they lack life
experience and maturity. Not too many professions allow
15-year-olds to be in lifesaving situations.?
Some states have more stringent age laws, and Brewster
said many beach agencies require the minimum age to be at
least 17 or 18. But there are no lifeguard shortages at
beaches, and he said the waterpark industry
shouldn?t have any either. ?Like any job,
if the pay and benefits are adequate, you?ll be
able to find qualified people to do the job,? he