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I work at a pool as a lifeguard, lifeguard instructor, Water Saftey Instructor and WSI Trainer. I have been a lifeguard and WSI for 9 years, lifeguard instructor for 4 years, in a lifeguard supervisor position (head lifeguard, lifeguard manager) about 5 years. Last year I was manager of the pool and this year I am not. My manager (lifeguard for 4 summers and no other certifications) and I have many fights and disagreements which makes it hard to discuss things. For instance I told her the vacuum we use to clean the pool was getting jammed with hair, and I can show her how to clean it as she did not know and I figured it last year how to clean it via trial and error.

Today (and the reason for the question) there was an incident at the pool in which a child was hit in the head when coming down the slide and complained about his head hurting. The lifeguard at the bottom of the slide, Guard 4, responded to the child. Guards 2 and 5 both asked about back boarding the child and call EMS. Guards 2, 4, and 5 are all on their first summer guarding. Guard 4 told guard 5 to get the manager. The manager checked the child out and said he was ok.

Based on our lifeguard training and information given from a similar incident last summer, we are to at minimum call EMS. For an injury to the head the child should also have been stabilized. Lifeguard 2, the one who brought this incident to me as I was not there, believes EMS should have been summoned and the child stabilized. I fully agree with this and disagree with the manager's release of the child without being properly checked by EMS.

The correct action in this case was either guard 4 to backboard and instruct someone to summon EMS, or the manager to recognize the need for EMS and overwrite guard 4's decision to not summon EMS or perform stabilization.

This incident needs to be address before something similar happens again. I was told by the city council member in charge of the pool and my manager to bring safety concerns for him/her, however the manager has yelled at me for not bringing stuff to her directly.

I wish to get information from all 4 workers involved in the incident, but there is no way to gather information from the manager without receiving aggression, especially since its the manager's action that is the problem. Based on my job title I am not officially in a position to interview the 4 workers to figure out what each one's actions were and why (though I might be since I trained guards 2, 4, and 5, and thus any mis-actions may come back to me as me incorrectly training guard 4), or give recommendations to the manager for next time. The manager has already established multiple times that I am not manager and my years of experience are not needed if I offer (though the manager will happily take it if there is a problem they do not wish to deal themself).

I also have another problem of guard 2 does not want me to use their name as we are a small town that has problems maintaining confidentiality and doesn't want their name attached to disagreeing with the manager over proper action.

What is the best way to approach this incident to make sure for next time something like this happens we act correctly?

I trained guards 2 and 5 this summer and guard 4 last summer, but guard 4 did not have any guarding experience for 9 months after training.

  • 6
    This is a great question, well written, clear, and including the perfect level of details. Welcome to Workplace! – enderland Jul 21 '14 at 14:58
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    Why are you no longer pool manager? It seems there must have been some falling out or problem between you and your previous boss if you were replaced as a manager for this summer in spite of your experience. – enderland Jul 21 '14 at 16:17
  • The official reason is that because I am training lifeguards, swim instructors, as well as swim lessons, I am going to be too busy to manage the pool, which is true. The unofficial reason is that we needed the guards and swim instructors at the start of the year and if I was our manager some people (mainly the bad lifeguards) would not have come back. – traisjames Jul 21 '14 at 18:38
  • The sentence beginning "I was told by the city council member " - it's not clear to me how many people are being talked about and who asked for what; could you clarify please? – AakashM Jul 22 '14 at 9:21
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    I'd rather have Guard Anne, Guard Bill, Guard Cliff, but maybe that's me. – o0'. Sep 16 '15 at 16:21
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If I remember my Red Cross lifeguard training correctly, it's the duty of the responding lifeguard to see to it that the emergency medical services call is made. That can be done by doing it, or by saying "call 911" to somebody who will do it.

This pool manager endangered that kid, took an enormous liability on herself and your municipality and made a serious mistake by overriding the guards on the scene. This was an incredibly dangerous move. If I had done that when I was working as a waterfront lifeguard at a camp, I would have expected to be fired and maybe prosecuted. Seriously.

A proper response to this incident is unfortunately going to cause a s***storm in your workplace. But you still have to do it.

You asked what to do to avoid a repeat of this situation. I would write a critical incident report (CIR) if I were you. It's pretty much the same stuff as your description in your question to us. But your CIR should include names, times, and specific locations. You don't need to interview anybody to do this; just say what you saw, heard, and said. Just facts, no opinions please.

You need to do this quickly for the kid's protection, for your's and the other guards', and for your municipality's finances.

Hand copies of that report, IN PERSON, to that city councilor you mentioned, to the municipal nurse or director of public health, to whomever runs the pools and rinks and stuff in your city, and to your supervisor. If your supervisor orders you not to do this, say "with respect, I have no choice." In that case, you might write another CIR saying that the supervisor instructed you not to file the first one. Just facts, no opinions.

You may, by virtue of your job supervising children, be a mandated reporter of mistreatment of children. That's why I suggest you give the CIR to the city nurse or public health person.

CIRs shouldn't be a big deal. We had to file them whenever a kid fell down running on the beach and skinned her knee. But this one may raise some workplace issues.

Let your boss's supervisors handle chewing her out for bad judgement.

  • Unfortunately I was not there, I heard all of this from one of our lifeguards, guard 2 actually. – traisjames Jul 23 '14 at 4:03
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I think you should talk directly to your manager's superior. He/She should trust you as he was your superior last summer, and thus knows you. Without telling him directly that someone made a mistake, you should tell him how the situation went, what you would have done if you were the manager, and explain why you feel like this situation could have been very dangerous if the child was really hurt. As for guard 4 who doesn't want his name to be told, maybe the fact that people know he disagreed with his manager is better than telling nothing and have worse consequenses next time, a bad injury or even worse, the death of a child. Safety is not something to mess with.

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Get the info from the four workers involved in the incident. Make one attempt to get info from the manager and if she yells at you - you can take it and shrug it off, right? - simply write the Council member that she rebuffed your attempt to get info from her.

The manager's on the spot, uninformed medical diagnosis could have opened the city to a major liability lawsuit had the child's condition seriously deteriorated after her failure to call EMS.

I believe that her failure to respond to the incident properly is the single key indicator that she is not qualified to manage the pool. The math is simple: everybody who gets into the pool alive and well gets out of the pool alive and well. She clearly cannot be relied upon to ensure that outcome. The fact that she knows less than her lifeguards is not a deal breaker but the fact that she recklessly overrode them shows that she is unfit for her job as manager. I am not sure what kind of safety training she got, but her safety training is woefully deficient and totally inadequate for her role and position.

Make sure that she won't be yelling at you for much longer as her manager. It's fire-the-boss time.

  • I'd think that anyone taking their kids to this pool would agree. – gnasher729 Jul 21 '14 at 12:38
  • If I was a council member and I had credible accounts to believe the life guard failed to call EMS in what could have been a multi million dollar liability lawsuit against my city, that boss would be out of a job within less then a day. – Magisch Mar 31 '16 at 11:17
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Dealing with the code violation

Contact your manager's superior. Tell them:

  1. The action you believe was supposed to happen. If it is objectively/officially required, cite where that authority comes in and the exact circumstances it's said to apply and explain why that applies to this situation.
  2. The action the manager took.
  3. That you have reason to fear retaliation.

From there, you should not do anything else. Let them contact the other life guards if they want more information. Do not interview them yourself. It's not your job. Also, given the backdrop that you laid out, it's likely that you being the one to interview the other life guards would bias what they say. You were their boss, you have a known clash with the manager and, most importantly, it seems you've already decided the outcome of the investigation before you interviewed anybody. If the manager's boss sees a problem, they should be the one to interview everybody, figure out what happened and decide the outcome. That's their job.

Also, you should definitely respect the right to anonymity of the other life guard. This is part of the reason why you should not be the one to interview them. If they say anything to anybody, it should only be to the manager's boss in secrecy. Even their boss should respect their right to anonymity, but since you are not their boss, you don't have any authority to override that. If you must rely on the testimony of the other life guards only, then do that.

Dealing with the manager in general

As for the more general problem with the manager, it sounds like a two way street. The fact that you spent as much time as you did talking about the management clash (your greater past experience, disputes, etc) when in reality that is completely off topic to the question (manager overrides protocol for the worse, how to report) indicates to me that you have an general issue accepting your role as non-manager.

Try to think of it more from their perspective. It undermines this person's authority and can be embarrassing for them for you to frequently tell them how to do things, showing them things and questioning their judgements, especially in front of others. The manager is the person who makes decisions and you're constantly telling the person who makes decisions what to do. At the very least, you should be sure to make these comments one-on-one in private. Then also, not all people like to learn by being told or shown. Plenty of people like to learn things by doing them and figuring them out on their own. In the case of non-subjective tasks, this manager might just prefer to learn things on their own. In other cases, it might just be that your priorities and styles are not theirs. Don't take offense by that, but don't constantly tell them the answer. Save your intervention for the bigger incidents like the one central to this post, the code violation.

In order for them to feel like your experience is a resource to their benefit take an attitude more along the lines of, "I'll let you do your thing, but I've been through a lot of this, so if you have any questions don't be afraid to ask, I'm sure I can help" and they'll probably be more comfortable and actually ask when they need to.

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What does your emergency action procedure state? I would express to your direct supervisor that you feel the safety has been compromised and the EAP not followed.

Tell them you will go to the upper management and advise them that the risk management team needs to enforce the EAP and if there is no EAP for this, then a potential spinal injury situation (come on! every pool must have a spinal concern in their EAP!) is at stake.

Ask that the EAP be followed to mitigate risk and exposure of the facility to litigation. It only takes 1 lawsuit! If they don't listen, you don't want to be involved with a lawsuit. Find other employment.

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