Now that Spring is finally here, it is a yearly tradition for us to warn consumers all over the nation but especially here in the Southern California region about companies that are nothing more than booking agencies unlike companies that actually employ lifeguards but keep in mind that not all companies are created equal. There is a huge difference between the two prompting us to once again sound the alarm in an attempt to protect consumers from major problems, lawsuits or worse.
Everyone needs to be made aware of the booking agencies as well as the companies who are walking a fine line which present dangers as far as lifeguards for hire are concerned.
Typically booking agencies or websites do not employ lifeguards but solicit their website to freelance lifeguards who are trying to get side jobs. These lifeguards will get jobs from those who may have found the website after doing a Google web search and will find that those lifeguards have pretty low cost rates but you know the old saying, “if it’s too good to be true, it usually is”.
The way those sites work is by having a freelance lifeguard sign up, fill out their questionnaires and upload their certifications. This is problematic as this sets up a situation where someone can fraudulently create a profile and upload forged certifications. In fact, with programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Canva, this is quite easy to do. This is not an isolated incident as we have caught many red handed and we know that this happens more often than not.
One site that makes it clear that they are a booking portal has posted a disclaimer (see photo) as a way to buck any and all liability. We all know that this does very little against a very savvy attorney especially if a lifeguard has been implicated in an incident. A disclaimer such as this one does not absolve them of anything.
As a consumer, you have to ask yourself if you would trust a freelance lifeguard who has not been properly background checked and screened? Do they have a criminal history? How up to date are their skills? So many items and so many questions to be considered when going this route. According to the example given above, the booking website expects the consumer to take due diligence in making sure the lifeguard is being honest and accurate. Unless you know how to conduct a thorough background check one would not know where to start in this process.
The consumer also needs to be aware that freelance lifeguards never carry professional liability insurance and are not engaged in continuing education training unless of course they currently work for a lifeguard agency. Many of the lifeguards on those sites are looking to make money on the side while perhaps going to school or perhaps to supplement their income in addition to another job. Many of those lifeguards are also very young.
NOT ALL LIFEGUARD COMPANIES ARE LEGITIMATE
There are a few national companies that advertise in many cities across the country, however we have learned that they are not actually interviewing lifeguards on a face to face basis. They are hiring lifeguards via email and telephone conversations. This is much more common as a result of the lifeguard shortage and these companies are hiring individuals with a heartbeat so to speak, just to get bodies on board.
Background checks are not being done and skills testing is not being done to ensure the lifeguards are proficient in their skills and knowledge. Items such as these will rear their ugly head in a court of law if an accident occurs at a pool party or other type of aquatic event.
Once again, we are encouraging consumers to hire lifeguards from reputable companies and there are many. The legitimate companies will have workers comp insurance, professional liability insurance and here in California will be AB5 compliant. Most of the reputable companies will conduct extensive background checks and will confirm that lifeguard certifications are current and valid. Many will also conduct skills testing to ensure proficiency as well.