Hello Everyone,


I would like to hear from our aquatics community about the expectations for their staff who are not actively lifeguarding.  

At my facility, staff members typically have 20 minutes out of every hour in which they are not in rotation.  So they guard for 40 minutes and are out of the stand for 20 minutes.  When both of our pools are busy, the amount of time guarding can increase to about one hour, followed by 15 minutes of down time.

Recently, another full time staff member and I were setting up for a swim meet.  We needed some more help, but when I asked our Aquatic Supervisor to handle a few things for me, they told me no, because they were eating.  

When the time came to handle this issue, I didn't take care of it immediately because we would have been short staffed if I sent supervisor home, they were still unsure as to what they did wrong and that person stood firm that since they were eating, they should not have been expected to help.

My question to all of you is:  What are your expectations for staff members that are out of rotation?  If a lifeguard refused to assist you because they are eating, what would you do?  What if it is a supervisor?  

I look forward to reading your replies.


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The devil is in the details...  I'm not sure what the L&I codes are in Cinci, but in WA state certain breaks are required.  A 4 hour shift gets a 20 minute break.  A 5+ hour shift gets a 20 minute break and a 1/2 hour lunch.  8 hours gets 2 twenty minute breaks and a 1/2 hour lunch, etc.

If your supervisor was within the guidelines established by L&I, they have a right to stay and eat their lunch.  If not, I'd get a new lifeguard supervisor :).


That is an excellent point.  According to Ohio law, we are not required to give a break to anyone over the age of 18.  The person in question is over that age.


We have mandatory breaks as well in MI, but since our shifts don't typically exceed 4 hours, their break is just a stop to the bathroom in rotation.  I've always tried to stand by this theory: If I am not willing, or my supervisor is not willing, than why would the rest of the staff be willing to do the dirty work.  I hold this accountability to everyone I work with.  Since your person is in a supervisory position, I would not be a happy boss.

To follow up on Cory's post WA guidelines continue to say that if through the normal course of their duties they are given the equivalent amount of break time that the employer is not required to giver further rest periods (i.e. if they are off stand 20 minutes every hour and they work a a 5+ hour shift they have over 2 hours of off-stand time which grants the the potential for WAY more than 20 minutes of rest time.

Off-stand does NOT equal Off-duty; my staff gets between 10 and 20 minutes of downtime per hour depending on the shift, with the understanding that not all of it is break time there are secondary duties they are expected to perform (cleaning etc.)  As far as Supervisors our policy is that the Manager-On-Duty is just that: On-Duty and they are unless relieved by another Supervisor they required to perform their duties, including tasks assigned by their superiors.  The nature of their duties provides them the equivalent of 20 minutes of rest time for a 5+ hour shift, so if they're eating and something comes up they are expected to leave their food and come back to it later.

This one seems easy to me. 


You need a break that bad  -- punch out  -- when you are done punch back in.  And tell them to make sure you are on their resume recommendation list.


We conquer this where I work by scheduling them short shifts. Otherwise, they due get sufficient break time as state above when they are "down" from the chair...they are still on duty, and should get up if they need to do something. Every once in a while if we have had sufficient guards on duty I have allowed one to clock out, and actualyl leave the building on a break (then there is no confusion). Why don't you explain to them that if something happened and they do not respond they could potentially be negligent?

When you are off rotation you are still at work- this is explained at day one.  In the wise words of my old boss "if you can lean you can clean".

Follow state guidelines for breaks- clock out and or write it on the schedule so it is clear when that break must occur- when it works for the center not the staff. 

We have a definite distinction between break time and "off rotation" time. When a guard is off rotation they all use a check off task list of minor duties to complete, cleaning, practicing CPR, swimming to stay in shape, etc. If they are on a mandated break due to the hours worked, then they are not required to complete any duties.

The problem with the scenario you described, Bob, was a whole separate issue in my opinion. As a supervisor, his response should have been a definite "Yes, I will gladly help!" regardless of what he was doing, even if it meant postponing his break. Supervisors set the example by their behavior. He just sent a message to all staff that his lunch was more important than the facility preparing for a swim meet. That is where the problem lays, that was not the action of a team player.


Depending on your state labor laws, you cannot ask employees to perform duties while on a mandated break. However, in most cases you can postpone the break and have them complete necesary duties provided you are within the hourly restrictions. That is how I would have responded to this issue, by stating "We really need some help right now, let's postpone your break until we get things set up. Working as a team we should be able to get this completed quickly and get you back to your lunch!" The gentle teamwork reminder would hopefully send the message, especially to a supervisor! If not, then further disciplinary action may be required, but be aware of any mandated break laws in your state.



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