The dangers of distractions

male pool lifeguard looking down at mobile phone and not paying attention to the pool 

Distractions can be a dangerous barrier to effective supervision at the pool. We have unfortunately heard of tragic incidents occurring in overseas aquatic centres, which have been the result of lifeguards becoming distracted on the job.

In busy aquatic facilities there are many distractions that can hinder the ability of a lifeguard to effectively watch a pool. Kids misbehaving, excessive noise, patrons asking questions or wanting to talk to you, environmental distractions such as glare, heat or rain can all reduce the focus of a lifeguard on duty.

In addition to physical disturbances, distractions can also be mental. Factors such as fatigue, stress, or excessive internal thoughts can reduce a person’s ability to effectively supervise. Maintaining focus mentally is often the biggest challenge that lifeguards face when supervising for long periods of time.

As a lifeguard, to provide effective supervision you must be prepared for whatever situation or emergency arises. To minimise distractions, you first need to be aware of them and have methods in place to takes steps to manage them. Have a conversation with your team and ask ‘what distracts us when we are on deck?’; “what draws our focus away from the patrons in the water?’. Discuss ways you can tackle these issues.

It’s also important to look after yourself and make sure you are healthy when turning up to a shift. Being tired, dehydrated or unwell can affect your ability to concentrate and effectively maintain patron safety at the pool.

Ask yourself the ‘IMSAFE’ questions:

I – Injury or Illness?

Am I fit for work? Do I have any injuries, or am I suffering from any illness that will affect my performance?

M – Medication?

Am I under the effect of any medication that may cloud my judgement or slow my reaction times?

S – Stress?

Am I under stress from either work or home? Do my thoughts keep wandering to something other than my job?

A – Alcohol or Drugs?

Am I under the influence of either alcohol or drugs?

F – Fatigue?

Am I tired or not adequately rested to fulfil my duties and supervise effectively?

E – Expertise?

Am I competent enough (do I have the expertise) to complete all aspects of my job? Is there extra training I need for a specific task or area of my work?

Ensuring you are physically fit and healthy, and that none of the above factors are an issue, is important in reducing the likelihood of you becoming distracted on deck.

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