Nova Scotia

Lifeguard shortage could leave some Nova Scotia beaches unsupervised

The Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service says COVID-related pool closures has led to a lack of certified lifeguards in the province, and swim programs are struggling to find staff.

COVID-related pool closures meant fewer personnel trained and certified

Lifeguard chair on beach with no lifeguard in it
A lifeguard stand shown on Cavendish Beach, P.E.I., in July 2020. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Lifeguards are hard to find in Nova Scotia this summer.

Program organizers are struggling to fill positions at beaches and pools due to COVID-related training gaps, and the shortage is putting some swim programs at risk. 

The Baddeck Lions Club was eager to reopen their beach swim program on Kidston Island, a small beach on the Bras d'Or Lakes that was closed for two years due to COVID.

But Brian Chandler, a member of the club's beach committee, said that a shortage of applicants and trained lifeguards is making it difficult. 

"We just cannot find lifeguards," he said.

He's organized the swim program for 22 years, and this is the first year he's been scrambling to fill five lifeguard positions. 

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Chandler has called around to other swim programs, and he said it's a problem throughout the province. 

To fill the gap, Chandler said they will have to increase their local recruitment efforts.

"We're going to have to focus on the schools and try to get in there and identify some kids that may be interested in taking the course and offer free transportation and free certification and try to create a pool of lifeguards that we can draw from every year," Chandler said. 

And if they can't find staff, Chandler said they won't be able to open a supervised beach area this summer. 

Province-wide shortage

Paul D'Eon is executive director of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service. (CBC)

Paul D'Eon is director of the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service. He hires around 80 staff each summer to work at 25 beaches from Ingonish to Yarmouth.

"This is my 48th summer," he said. "It is the first summer that I have, at this point, not enough lifeguards to supervise our beaches. I am about five or six lifeguards short."

D'Eon said compared to previous years, he has not received as many applications for the full-time positions. Lifeguards at the service's sites work 40 hours per week from July 1 to August 31, and are paid $14.79 to $16.91 per hour. Lifeguards employed by other organizations in the province are paid between $13 and $19.

Average pay for lifeguards in Nova Scotia is just over $15 per hour. 

D'Eon still has positions to fill on the Eastern Shore, the Annapolis Valley, and the South Shore. 

To cover the posts, D'Eon says they are even looking to hire good swimmers who may not be certified and fast track them through training, or hiring people from out of province. 

D'Eon said lifeguards are in short supply across North America. COVID pool closures meant fewer personnel were being trained and some facilities are closing down a couple days per week due to staff shortage. 

"Those 16 to 17 year olds who would be coming into our system are not doing that because they haven't got certifications," he said. "We're trying to catch up with that now."