25 Disadvantages of Being a Lifeguard (Tan Lines Trials)

disadvantages of being a lifeguard

Considering a career as a lifeguard?

It’s easy to get swept away in the appeal:

  • Working in the great outdoors.
  • Staying fit while earning.
  • The satisfaction of ensuring people’s safety.

But there’s more beneath the surface.

Today, we’re diving deep. Really deep.

Into the challenging, the demanding, and the downright tough aspects of being a lifeguard.

Intensive training? Check.

Physical endurance? You bet.

Emotional stress from high-stakes situations? Absolutely.

And let’s not forget the unpredictable nature of the water.

So, if you’re thinking about jumping into lifeguarding, or just curious about what’s beyond the whistle and the rescue tube…

Keep reading.

You’re about to get a comprehensive look at the disadvantages of being a lifeguard.

High Responsibility for Swimmers’ Safety and Well-being

Lifeguards are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility as they are charged with the safety and well-being of swimmers.

They must always remain vigilant to prevent accidents and respond quickly to emergencies.

This can create an immense amount of stress, especially in busy environments like public pools or crowded beaches.

Furthermore, the consequences of a lapse in attention can be severe, potentially resulting in injury or loss of life.

This high level of responsibility can lead to burnout and emotional stress.

Also, lifeguards typically work in shifts that may include early mornings, weekends, and holidays, which can impact personal life and social activities.


Vigilance Fatigue from Constant Alertness

As a lifeguard, you are required to be constantly alert and vigilant, as the safety of swimmers is in your hands.

This can lead to what is known as vigilance fatigue.

You have to constantly scan the water, identify potential hazards, and be ready to respond to emergencies at any moment.

This consistent level of high alertness can be mentally and physically draining.

The stress and pressure of maintaining this constant focus can lead to exhaustion, decreased job performance, and even burnout.

This requirement for constant alertness can also make it challenging to relax even during breaks or after work hours.


Risk of Physical Harm or Drowning During Rescues

Lifeguards are often placed in high-pressure situations where they are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of others.

During an emergency, a lifeguard may have to risk their own safety to save someone else.

This could involve dealing with a strong current, an aggressive swimmer, or a large wave.

The risk of physical harm is a constant reality for lifeguards, and they must be prepared for the potential of injury or even drowning while performing rescues.

This line of work requires a high degree of physical fitness, mental alertness, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.

Despite the rigorous training they undergo, the unpredictability of the water and the inherent dangers associated with swimming make this a potentially dangerous job.


Exposure to Harsh Weather Conditions and UV Radiation

Lifeguards are often stationed at outdoor pools, beaches, and water parks, which exposes them to various weather conditions.

This could range from scorching hot sunny days to sudden rainstorms.

Not only can this make the job physically uncomfortable, but it can also pose health risks.

Lifeguards spend a large portion of their day under the sun, which exposes them to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

This can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer if proper precautions, such as wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, are not taken.

Additionally, these weather conditions can sometimes make the job more challenging, as lifeguards must remain vigilant and focused regardless of the climate.


Seasonal or Irregular Employment Hours

Being a lifeguard often comes with seasonal or irregular employment hours.

Many lifeguard positions are tied to the summer months when beaches and pools are more frequented by the public.

This means that consistent, year-round employment can be challenging to secure.

In addition, the hours can be irregular, with early mornings, late evenings, and weekends often required to accommodate the operating hours of pools and beaches.

This can disrupt a regular sleep schedule and interfere with personal commitments.

Furthermore, the demand for lifeguards can fluctuate based on the weather, leading to inconsistent work schedules.


Emotional Toll from Witnessing or Handling Water Accidents

Lifeguards are often the first responders in water-related accidents and emergencies.

This responsibility can take a significant emotional toll, especially if the lifeguard is unable to save the victim’s life despite their best efforts.

They may witness a variety of distressing situations, from minor injuries to severe or even fatal accidents.

Even when successful, the process of saving someone’s life can be traumatic and stressful.

Lifeguards often need to deal with the aftermath of these situations, which may include feelings of guilt, anxiety, or stress.

Professional counseling and support may be necessary to help them cope with these experiences.


Intensive Physical Training and Fitness Requirements

Lifeguards need to be in peak physical condition in order to effectively carry out their duties.

This involves rigorous and intensive training sessions, which can include swimming long distances, diving, and even mock rescue operations.

Lifeguards need to be able to swim quickly, carry victims and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Lifeguards are also required to maintain their fitness levels throughout their employment, which can mean ongoing physical training and regular fitness tests.

This constant physical demand can be challenging and exhausting.

Additionally, failing to meet these fitness requirements could potentially risk lives, adding a layer of stress and pressure to the role.


Need for Frequent Recertification in Life Saving Techniques

Lifeguards are required to stay updated with the latest life-saving techniques and practices.

This means they need to undertake regular recertification, which can be time-consuming and sometimes costly.

The certification standards are set high to ensure they can handle any emergency that arises.

The recertification often includes rigorous physical tests, tests on life-saving techniques, and first aid knowledge.

Although this continuous learning can be seen as a professional growth opportunity, it can also be challenging and stressful as lifeguards must consistently prove their skills and competence in high-pressure situations.


Legal and Liability Issues Arising from Rescues and Incidents

Lifeguards have a significant amount of responsibility when it comes to the safety of swimmers and beachgoers.

They are the first line of defense when accidents or incidents occur in the water.

However, this responsibility can lead to legal and liability issues.

Lifeguards may be held responsible for any injuries or accidents that happen on their watch, even if they have taken all the necessary precautions and followed all the rules.

This can lead to stress and worry, particularly after a serious incident.

Additionally, if a rescue or response is deemed inadequate or improper, a lifeguard can be held legally liable, potentially facing lawsuits or other legal actions.

This can not only affect their career but can also cause personal financial strain.


Limited Career Advancement Opportunities

Lifeguards often face limited opportunities for career advancement within their field.

Most lifeguard positions are entry-level and don’t offer a clear or direct path for growth.

Although there are more senior roles such as pool managers or aquatics directors, these positions are few and highly competitive.

Furthermore, these higher positions often require additional certifications and qualifications which may not be easily accessible for all lifeguards.

This can lead to a feeling of stagnation or lack of progression in their career.

For those looking for long-term career growth, this may not be the ideal path.


Managing Difficult or Non-compliant Beachgoers or Pool Visitors

As a lifeguard, one of the main challenges can be dealing with difficult or non-compliant beachgoers or pool visitors.

Lifeguards are responsible for enforcing rules to ensure everyone’s safety, and this can sometimes lead to confrontations with individuals who do not wish to follow these guidelines.

These situations can be stressful and require excellent communication and conflict resolution skills.

Dealing with disruptive individuals can also detract from a lifeguard’s main responsibility – watching the water and ensuring the safety of swimmers.

Additionally, lifeguards may have to deal with intoxicated visitors, which adds another layer of difficulty to this aspect of the job.


Dealing with False Alarms or Prank Situations

Being a lifeguard means having the responsibility of ensuring the safety of people in an aquatic environment.

However, a common disadvantage of this job role is the occurrence of false alarms or prank situations.

These situations can occur when someone pretends to be in danger, creating panic and unnecessary disturbance.

This can be draining for lifeguards as they have to be ready to respond to emergencies at all times.

Responding to false alarms can also lead to emotional stress as it involves rushing into action mode, which can be physically and mentally exhausting.

Furthermore, false alarms may cause the lifeguard to second guess genuine emergencies which may lead to delayed responses in actual life-threatening situations.


Reduced Pay Compared to Other Public Safety Roles

Lifeguards, despite their critical role in ensuring public safety at pools, beaches, and water parks, often receive lower pay compared to other public safety professions such as firefighters or police officers.

This is often despite the fact that lifeguards undergo rigorous training and certification processes, and are responsible for the safety and well-being of large groups of people.

Additionally, lifeguarding can be a seasonal job, particularly in areas with colder climates, which can lead to job insecurity and fluctuations in income.

Furthermore, the pay often does not reflect the high level of responsibility and the potential risks involved in lifeguarding, which can lead to job dissatisfaction.


Potentially Long Periods of Inactivity During Shifts

Lifeguards are tasked with ensuring the safety of swimmers and beach-goers, often from a stationary position.

This role can involve long periods of inactivity during shifts, which can be physically and mentally draining.

Lifeguards must remain vigilant and attentive to their surroundings at all times, even during periods where there is little to no action.

While the job can offer moments of excitement and fulfillment, the long stretches of inactivity can be challenging for individuals who prefer a more active and engaging work environment.

Despite these periods of inactivity, lifeguards must be ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice, which requires a high level of discipline and focus.


Stress Associated with High-Stakes Decision Making

Lifeguards are responsible for the safety and well-being of individuals at pools, beaches, and water parks.

They must always be alert and ready to respond to emergencies, which can create a high level of stress.

The pressure of having to make split-second, life or death decisions can be overwhelming for some individuals.

Furthermore, the fear of making a wrong decision that could potentially harm or even cost someone their life is a significant emotional burden.

This kind of stress, while not constant, is a recurring part of the job and can lead to burnout or emotional fatigue.

Additionally, this level of responsibility can make it difficult for some lifeguards to switch off from work during their off-duty hours.


On-site First Aid and Emergency Medical Response Responsibilities

As a lifeguard, you are often the first line of response in the event of an aquatic emergency.

This can be a stressful responsibility, as it may involve performing first aid or even CPR on a victim until emergency medical services arrive.

A lifeguard needs to remain calm under pressure and make quick decisions that can potentially save a life.

The weight of this responsibility is a significant disadvantage, as it can lead to emotional stress and anxiety.

Additionally, the job requires maintaining up-to-date certifications in first aid, CPR, and sometimes advanced life-saving techniques, which means regular training and recertification.

Despite the stress and responsibility, this role can also provide a sense of satisfaction in knowing that your actions can directly contribute to the safety and well-being of others.


Risk of Burnout from Repetitive Tasks and Routine Patrols

As a lifeguard, the majority of your time will be spent observing swimmers and ensuring their safety.

This often involves executing the same tasks over and over again, such as scanning the water, enforcing pool rules and maintaining safety equipment.

Additionally, routine patrols around the swimming area can also become monotonous over time.

This repetitive nature of work can lead to burnout and a decrease in job satisfaction.

Furthermore, the need for constant vigilance can be mentally draining and add to the stress levels.

Despite these challenges, the key role lifeguards play in ensuring swimmer safety can be a source of job fulfillment.


Challenges of Enforcing Safety Rules Among Diverse Groups

As a lifeguard, one of the main responsibilities is to ensure the safety of all individuals present at the beach or swimming pool.

However, this often involves enforcing safety rules among diverse groups of people.

This can be challenging as people of different age groups, cultures, or languages might interpret or understand the rules differently.

Communicating and enforcing rules to children can be particularly challenging as they might not comprehend the dangers or risks associated with certain activities.

Similarly, language barriers may make it difficult to effectively communicate safety rules to non-English speakers.

This can be stressful and demanding as lifeguards need to ensure everyone’s safety while also managing their communication effectively.

In addition, lifeguards may also face resistance or backlash from individuals who disagree with the enforcement of certain rules, adding to the complexity of the role.


Dealing with Criticism from Public or Employers in Event of Incidents

Lifeguards are often the first line of defense in the event of emergencies at pools, beaches, and other bodies of water.

Therefore, they are expected to maintain a high level of vigilance and quick response.

However, in the event of an incident, whether it’s a minor injury or a major rescue operation, lifeguards can face criticism from the public or their employers.

This criticism can range from questions about their response time to their methods of handling the situation.

Some may even question their competence, which can be particularly stressful and demoralizing.

Despite rigorous training and adherence to safety protocols, lifeguards must be prepared to face scrutiny and manage such situations professionally.

This constant pressure to perform perfectly can contribute to high stress levels in this role.


Maintaining Constant Communication with Other Members of Safety Team

As a lifeguard, you are part of a safety team that is responsible for the lives of people in the water and around the pool or beach area.

This means that you must constantly communicate with other members of the safety team to ensure that all areas are monitored and everyone is safe.

This constant communication can be stressful and draining, especially during peak hours when the pool or beach is crowded.

You must be alert and ready to respond to any situation at any time.

It is a demanding role that requires excellent communication skills, high levels of concentration, and the ability to work well under pressure.


Confronting Trespassers or Unauthorized Activities at Aquatic Facilities

Lifeguards often have to deal with individuals who are not following the rules or engaging in unauthorized activities at aquatic facilities.

This can include trespassers who are swimming after hours, individuals who are not obeying safety rules, or even people who are attempting to use the facilities without paying.

As a lifeguard, confronting these individuals can be stressful and potentially dangerous.

It’s important to remain calm and professional, but these situations can still be a major downside of the job.

It requires not only physical strength but also mental toughness to handle such instances effectively.


Ensuring Personal Safety from Aquatic Animals in Certain Environments

Lifeguards are often tasked with ensuring the safety of beachgoers or swimmers in areas where there may be aquatic animals.

This can be a significant disadvantage for those working in environments where dangerous sea life such as sharks, jellyfish or even alligators are present.

In such situations, lifeguards must remain vigilant, not only for the safety of the swimmers, but also for their own personal safety.

In addition to routine rescue skills, they may need to learn and implement measures to avoid or deter these creatures.

This introduces an additional layer of risk and responsibility to the role, which can be stressful and demanding.

Despite this, however, lifeguards play an essential role in maintaining the safety and well-being of beachgoers and swimmers in such environments.


Pressure to Maintain a Professional Demeanor in Stressful Situations

Lifeguards are often faced with high-pressure scenarios where lives are at stake.

They are expected to maintain their composure and act swiftly in stressful situations.

This constant pressure can be emotionally draining and stressful for many individuals.

They need to constantly be alert and ready to jump into action at any given moment.

Moreover, they are also expected to deal with distraught family members or friends of the victim, making it important for them to maintain a professional demeanor at all times.

This level of responsibility and emotional stress can be difficult to handle for some individuals.


Physical Demands of Cleaning and Maintenance of Pool or Beach Areas

Lifeguards are not only responsible for the safety of the swimmers, but they are also tasked with the physical upkeep of the swimming area, whether it’s a pool or a beach.

This may include cleaning the pool, removing debris from the water, maintaining equipment, and ensuring the cleanliness and safety of the surrounding area.

The job can be physically demanding, requiring strength, stamina, and endurance.

Lifeguards may need to be on their feet for extended periods, carry heavy equipment, and perform strenuous tasks in various weather conditions.

This physical demand can lead to fatigue and physical stress, especially during peak swimming seasons.


Limited Social Interaction During Focused Observation Periods

Being a lifeguard requires constant attention to the safety of swimmers, which can limit the amount of social interaction they can enjoy during their shifts.

Lifeguards are expected to be focused on the water and its surrounding areas at all times, watching for signs of distress or danger.

This level of concentration often requires lifeguards to isolate themselves from social interactions, which can be challenging for those who thrive on social engagement.

While there may be opportunities to interact with others during breaks or less busy times, the primary responsibility of a lifeguard is to ensure the safety of patrons, which often means sacrificing social time.



And there we have it.

A candid dive into the disadvantages of being a lifeguard.

It’s not just about sun-soaked days and the allure of the surf.

It’s demanding. It’s commitment. It’s steering through a sea of physical and emotional challenges.

But it’s also about the fulfillment of saving a life.

The delight of teaching someone to swim.

The rush of knowing you’ve made a difference.

Yes, the journey is hard. But the rewards? They can be exceptional.

If you’re nodding along, thinking, “Yes, this is the challenge I’ve been searching for,” we’ve got something else for you.

Dive into our insider guide on the reasons to become a lifeguard.

If you’re ready to embrace the waves and the calm…

To learn, to grow, and to make a splash in this dynamic field…

Then perhaps, just perhaps, a career as a lifeguard is for you.

So, jump in.

Explore, engage, and excel.

The world of lifeguarding awaits.

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