Can Lifeguard function be outsourced?

A young lifeguard appointed by private lifeguard firm in Hallandale Beach was fired earlier this month because he left his assigned zone to save a drowning man which was in violation to the the company’s operational guidelines. He was an employee of Jeff Ellis, a Lifeguard outsourcing service provider. This triggered the Hallandale beach authorities to reassess their decision to outsource such life saving functions.

Lifeguards on a beach. Image source:

Lifeguards on a beach. Image source:

Jeff Ellis Management, a pioneer in lifeguard business, started their operation 25 years back. They started as consultants to water parks by providing training for lifeguards and performing audits of lifeguard equipments. In 2003, they entered into the business of hiring, training and managing of lifeguards for the water parks and beaches. Hallandale beach was one of their clients who decide to outsource beach protection operations to the firm.

What drives outsourcing of such public service functions by the public enterprises to such private agencies are:

  1.  The low cost services offered by these private agencies.
  2. The expertise of these agencies in carrying out the operations in more economical manner
  3. Their expertise in doing things in more effective and efficient ways.
  4. Their ability to bring upon improvements in the operations when required
  5. They have more trained resources at hand to perform the desired function at any given point of time

But in case of outsourcing lifesaving functions, along with the above rewards there are also certain risks. Cost cannot be a factor for outsourcing since it is a life saving function and public interest should be protected.

The process of outsourcing lifesaving function to date has got many pitfalls. The Public agencies need to rework on their outsourcing contracts. The success of any outsourcing contracts largely depends upon the terms and conditions specified in the contracts.  In case of outsourcing lifesaving functions the contracting parties must:

  1. Describe precisely the quality of the services to be availed, and
  2. Should forecast the possible pitfall and utmost worse condition scenarios and have actions plans clearly defined for those scenarios.

The public contracts especially lifesaving contracts should be made transparent and should be made clear to public as how they will benefit from the outsourcing contracts.

It is up to the public authorities to make modifications in the existing contracts on the basis of “Tomas Lopez Case” and include new contractual terms to safeguard public interest.

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