Nova Scotia

Province to increase cleaning at N.S. beach facilities this summer

Now that Nova Scotia beaches have reopened, the province says it's working on a plan to make sure the people who flock there this summer stay safe.

Head of the Lifesaving Society expects beaches to be extra busy this summer

The director of the province's Lifesaving Society said lifeguards could wear personal protective equipment this summer. (Molly Segal/CBC)

Now that beaches in Nova Scotia have reopened, the province says it's working on a plan to make sure people who flock there this summer stay safe.

The Department of Lands and Forestry said there will be increased safety measures at beaches, including more cleaning of common facilities, like washrooms. But just how many lifeguards and other staff will be on duty is still up in the air. 

The head of the province's Lifesaving Society expects beaches to be extra busy this year as many other facilities remain closed and summer activities have been cancelled.

Paul D'Eon said lifeguards will need help to manage crowds and remind people to respect physical distancing guidelines. 

"The lifeguards need to pay attention to the swimmers and the people in the water, that's their main role, and they may need some assistance," he told CBC's Mainstreet. 

The province said it's currently in discussions with the Lifesaving Society about hiring lifeguards for provincial beaches this season. 

Sam Austin is the councillor for District 5, Dartmouth Centre. (CBC)

Halifax Regional Municipality typically hires 70-75 lifeguards to supervise municipal beaches and pools.

But this year, the municipality said it couldn't hire many seasonal workers, including lifeguards, as it struggles with a financial crisis caused by COVID-19.

Coun. Sam Austin said there's still some money left to hire lifeguards, although he doesn't know how much.

The municipality would normally spend $350,000 every season to hire lifeguards for its 19 supervised beaches. 

"These positions to me, they're up there with police and fire in terms of essential safety because if those beaches aren't staffed and people are going to go swimming anyway, I think it potentially puts people in jeopardy," Austin said.

Lifeguards are usually on duty at municipal beaches from July 1- Aug. 31 with recruitment beginning in January and February.

Council is in the middle of budget deliberations, and Austin said a decision on lifeguards likely won't be made for another couple of weeks.

PPE for lifeguards

D'Eon is on a national committee that's keeping an eye on how other jurisdictions are reopening beaches.

He said new protocols could mean lifeguards will wear some form of personal protective equipment while they're on duty this summer. 

Paul D'Eon, the director of Nova Scotia's Lifesaving Society, has been working on new safety protocols to introduce at beaches this summer. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

"In water rescues, it's very difficult because all this personal protective equipment, once it gets wet, it becomes ineffective," he said. "But certainly for resuscitation, we're looking at bag valve masks, we're looking at medical masks and eye shields for first aid."

While provincial parks, beaches and trails are now open, the Department of Lands and Forestry said visitor services will be limited until better public health measures are in place.

A more detailed plan about beach safety will be shared with the public once it's complete, the department said. 

With files from CBC's Mainstreet