British Columbia

B.C. residents face prospect of summer without swimming pools as new lifeguard training remains in development

Pools in communities like North Cowichan have decided to close their doors for the summer as the development of new protocols for lifeguards drags on.

New training, protocols required during COVID-19 pandemic

Pools across the province remain closed as lifeguards wait for new protocols to be rolled out. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Residents in North Cowichan, B.C., who were looking forward to a refreshing dip in the town's outdoor pool are out of luck. 

The Crofton Outdoor Pool won't be opening this summer, in large part because of new training and protocols needed for lifeguards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"By the time we do that we will be halfway through, or over halfway through the normal opening season for that pool," said North Cowichan mayor Al Siebring.

Pools across the province remain closed waiting for the new protocols to be rolled out. They are currently being developed by WorkSafeBC and the provincial Recreation and Parks Association, along with the Lifesaving Society.

They include training for new equipment that will limit person-to-person contact during rescues, as well as new procedures requiring a full change of clothes and a shower after any incidents.

Timeline for training not set in stone

"The actual training, we're hoping, will be available by the end of the next week," said Dale Miller, executive director of the Lifesaving Society's B.C. and Yukon branch.

But that timeline is not set in stone. Neither is the amount of time it will take to train lifeguards. Miller says they are still working through a lot of the details but he is confident trainers will be available in all regions in the province once the training is finalized.

"It's not going to be all that extensive. There are a few new elements, some more complicated than others. It's mainly about making sure lifeguards are comfortable getting back on the job," said Miller.

In Vancouver, members of the Open Water Swim Association and the union representing Vancouver lifeguards have raised concerns about how long it's taken to get the new protocols in place. 

In North Cowichan beaches are also open without lifeguard supervision this year and residents are being asked to take extra care when swimming, especially with children.

Ultimately, MIller says, the protocols they are working on are just one part of reopening pools and it will be up to local jurisdictions to decide when they feel comfortable putting lifeguards back to work.

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