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Lifeguard Fired After Saving Man’s Life


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A lifeguard in Hallandale Beach (Florida) was fired because he rescued someone outside the protected area.

The city of Hallandale Beach has outsourced its lifeguards to a company since 2003 to save money.

 

The full story can be found here or here.

 

I think we can all agree that in this case, that the boss of that guy behaves like a complete douche... But where to draw the line between what is good for the company, and what's good for humanity?

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So that's why you don't get a company to do that sort of thing. You make it a local government responsibility.

Governments are big enough to effectively self-insure so this sort of thing is much less likely to arise.

 

This problem was entirely foreseeable back in 2003.

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A lifeguard in Hallandale Beach (Florida) was fired because he rescued someone outside the protected area.

The city of Hallandale Beach has outsourced its lifeguards to a company since 2003 to save money.

 

The full story can be found here or here.

 

I think we can all agree that in this case, that the boss of that guy behaves like a complete douche... But where to draw the line between what is good for the company, and what's good for humanity?

I agree he should not have been fired as someone drowning now is more important than someone who may drown later. But you also have to consider the responsibilities of the company. When the lifeguard left, he put at risk the swimmers for whom he was responsible. It seems the company should have in place a contingency plan. For example if a lifeguard runs into the surf to save someone in his zone he is then not watching out for others. Another person should have covered his zone at that point. That contingency plan could have gone in place when he went to save someone outside his zone.

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There have been several cases in the UK in recent times of Official Action preventing people being rescued for 'Elf and Safety reasons. Here is just one example:-

 

"This was Walpole Park in Gosport, Hampshire, on an overcast lunchtime last March when no fewer than 25 members of the emergency services, including a press officer, descended on a 3½ft-deep model boating lake minutes after Simon Burgess, 41, fell into the water when he suffered a seizure. But as an inquest heard last week, he lay floating face-down for more than half an hour while firemen, police and paramedics watched and did nothing."

http://www.dailymail...tand-watch.html

Edited by Joatmon
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I agree he should not have been fired as someone drowning now is more important than someone who may drown later. But you also have to consider the responsibilities of the company. When the lifeguard left, he put at risk the swimmers for whom he was responsible.

I also think this is a prime example of where public funds should be used to run its own program for public lands like these, instead of using private companies. Or the private companies should just get over themselves and agree that lifeguards should guard lives.

 

A lifeguard should be charged with saving anyone that he can see is in trouble, period. With the training and licensing should come a clause that makes this their call, their decision. This is just one of those things that has to be different because it involves large bodies of water and frail humans. It's not like guarding a warehouse and being lured away from your building by someone breaking into a different warehouse. This is guarding people from drowning, and there's not a lot of time for calling on others to help. For people who have the training, I think most would probably tell you that saving a drowning victim is like a moral imperative for them.

 

In hindsight, it seems like everyone involved at the time would have told the lifeguard to go save the guy. Here's a lifeguard trained to help just standing there because the drowning man is just outside his territory. I would think even the people he's supposed to guard, if asked, would say, "GO! What the hell you waiting for, GO, we'll be fine for a bit, we'll be really careful if you'll please just keep that man from drowning! We'd do it ourselves but you've had the training and all."

 

It seems the company should have in place a contingency plan. For example if a lifeguard runs into the surf to save someone in his zone he is then not watching out for others. Another person should have covered his zone at that point. That contingency plan could have gone in place when he went to save someone outside his zone.

Hopefully that plan is standard, and it sounds like in this case, the lifeguards had radio contact between them. If they can't cover themselves like this, then who is held responsible if someone dies while a lifeguard is saving someone else, both in his territory? Doesn't the system usually rely on the fact that there are rarely multiple separate yet simultaneous drownings in an area?

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I also think this is a prime example of where public funds should be used to run its own program for public lands like these, instead of using private companies.

Why would it be better to have the government run the program itself? Presumably the government would also set up rules the lifeguards must follow. And if the government as one of its rules can say 'but go ahead and help anyone outside the zone also', then there is no reason they can't include that rule in the contract they set up with the lifeguard company.

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Why would it be better to have the government run the program itself? Presumably the government would also set up rules the lifeguards must follow. And if the government as one of its rules can say 'but go ahead and help anyone outside the zone also', then there is no reason they can't include that rule in the contract they set up with the lifeguard company.

You still end up with privatization causing conflicts of interest in lifeguarding. If I hire lifeguards for one stretch of beach, rival stretches of beach on either side of me don't have to pay because my lifeguards are obligated to save people drowning if they can see them. Or we aren't allowed to save you because you're swimming just across the line we were hired to patrol. Having lots of guards is the best thing for keeping us safe from drowning, but it's not the best thing for a private company.

 

Private companies will eventually want to minimize what they pay to patrol a lifeguard's area, or they will want to expand the services and thus the cost. I don't know much about drowning statistics, but you'd have to believe having lifeguards posted decreases deaths due to drowning, but other than more lifeguards, video surveillance is about the only practical thing I can think of to help guard the beach.

 

This is one of those areas that will probably always be best served by a vigilant human being who is tasked with saving people from drowning. It will always come down to having someone out there who can react quickly, and who isn't concerned with where the dividing line of his responsibility is, and just wants to help someone in trouble. When you don't want the ethical dilemmas that come with private business, that's a great time to look towards public funding.

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Why would it be better to have the government run the program itself?

Because it avoids the issue raised in the OP:

"But where to draw the line between what is good for the company, and what's good for humanity?"

There is no "company".

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You still end up with privatization causing conflicts of interest in lifeguarding. If I hire lifeguards for one stretch of beach, rival stretches of beach on either side of me don't have to pay because my lifeguards are obligated to save people drowning if they can see them.

This hold true whether they are private or public lifeguards.

 

Or we aren't allowed to save you because you're swimming just across the line we were hired to patrol.

Again, holds true for both.

 

Having lots of guards is the best thing for keeping us safe from drowning, but it's not the best thing for a private company.

It is if we are paying for them.

 

Because it avoids the issue raised in the OP:

"But where to draw the line between what is good for the company, and what's good for humanity?"

There is no "company".

I still don't see why the government paying a private company to patrol the beaches is a problem. There is nothing the private company cannot do that the government can do.

 

Whatever the rules are that you would like to see followed by the government, simply write those up in the contract with the private company. If you want them to help anyone in site, put it in the contract. If you want more lifeguards, put it in the contract. You can even put in the contract that the government gets to write up the set of rules.

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It seems the company should have in place a contingency plan.

Yes, the lifeguard's actions in question seem as much as, if not more than, the company's responsibility because it told the city that it knew all about lifeguarding and would hire, train and provide lifeguards for the city. It's called vicarious liability.

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This hold true whether they are private or public lifeguards.

 

 

Again, holds true for both.

 

 

It is if we are paying for them.

 

 

I still don't see why the government paying a private company to patrol the beaches is a problem. There is nothing the private company cannot do that the government can do.

 

Whatever the rules are that you would like to see followed by the government, simply write those up in the contract with the private company. If you want them to help anyone in site, put it in the contract. If you want more lifeguards, put it in the contract. You can even put in the contract that the government gets to write up the set of rules.

Why not just cut out the middleman and save money then?

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Why not just cut out the middleman and save money then?

I don't know but I assume it has to do with the reasons anyone does outsourcing. Such as the fact that a city government typically does not have much expertise, or even a business model, for how to hire/train/staff/certify/supervise/equip/etc. lifeguards.

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Either that or the city screwed up by purchasing the wrong services (meaning services that have a strictly enforced zone of coverage) . The only one who seems to have done the right thing is the lifeguard, and he got fired.

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This hold true whether they are private or public lifeguards.

The publicly funded lifeguard wouldn't be concerned with the competition from a private company, and the same can't be said of the private company, so it doesn't really hold true for both.

 

Again, holds true for both.

I don't see how. I'm talking about publicly-funded government-employed lifeguards who are allowed/expected to save anyone they see drowning, patrolling public beaches as employees of the parks department, trained and certified in a big enough city to have a facility. The private version of that would be given a territory and told that people in trouble outside the territory are to be ignored to avoid neglecting their own customers.

 

It is if we are paying for them.

Contracts can be written the right way, but they obviously aren't. Once you figure out optimum shifts and optimum numbers of lifeguards and everything that a good company would do, you could set it so nobody gets to monkey with the schedule to save a buck. Ultimately, though, you'll still be giving a government contract to a company that benefits more when there are more drownings so we have to hire more guards. It's tough to avoid the conflicts of interest.

 

I still don't see why the government paying a private company to patrol the beaches is a problem. There is nothing the private company cannot do that the government can do.

Except do their job without charging us more for their profit. Saving drowning victims should not be a for-profit endeavor.

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I don't see how. I'm talking about publicly-funded government-employed lifeguards who are allowed/expected to save anyone they see drowning, patrolling public beaches as employees of the parks department, trained and certified in a big enough city to have a facility. The private version of that would be given a territory and told that people in trouble outside the territory are to be ignored to avoid neglecting their own customers.

The scenario you describe is not real. It is something you made up which supports your position. I could just as easily say the private company would be expected to save anyone they see drowning, and the publicly funded/employed lifeguards would be given a territory and told people outside the territory are to be ignored. That is certainly something that could happen.

 

There is nothing magic about public/private. In both cases people are hired to do a job and told what the expectations are. If the government tells the private company to only patrol a certain area and ignore others, then that is hardly the fault of the private company if that is what they do. It is the fault of the government for setting such ridiculous expectations.

 

Contracts can be written the right way, but they obviously aren't. Once you figure out optimum shifts and optimum numbers of lifeguards and everything that a good company would do, you could set it so nobody gets to monkey with the schedule to save a buck. Ultimately, though, you'll still be giving a government contract to a company that benefits more when there are more drownings so we have to hire more guards. It's tough to avoid the conflicts of interest.

Of course they are written that way, they just weren't in this case.

 

If you needed more guards for the private company, then you would have needed more guards for the government. Either way someone is making more money. In the private company the money is split between company and employee. In the government scenario it only goes to the guards. What difference does it make who gets the money?

 

Except do their job without charging us more for their profit. Saving drowning victims should not be a for-profit endeavor.

Why?

 

Should we have no for-profit hospitals? Should we have no for-profit EMT/ambulance? Private security? Guards? Medical groups? Pharmaceutical companies? Makers of safety equipment? Do you think the drowning victim cares who got paid to monitor the beach that day? The life guard is getting paid for doing that job no matter who pays him.

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The scenario you describe is not real. It is something you made up which supports your position. I could just as easily say the private company would be expected to save anyone they see drowning, and the publicly funded/employed lifeguards would be given a territory and told people outside the territory are to be ignored. That is certainly something that could happen.

 

There is nothing magic about public/private. In both cases people are hired to do a job and told what the expectations are. If the government tells the private company to only patrol a certain area and ignore others, then that is hardly the fault of the private company if that is what they do. It is the fault of the government for setting such ridiculous expectations.

I didn't make it up, it's what we did before we started to outsource government jobs to private companies. And I'm not against the practice, but it doesn't always work better that way, and it always has to cost more. Publicly-funded lifeguard operations are interested in guarding public beaches and pools; privately held lifeguard services are interested in making a profit providing such services. Their priorities are different and always will be.

 

If you needed more guards for the private company, then you would have needed more guards for the government. Either way someone is making more money. In the private company the money is split between company and employee. In the government scenario it only goes to the guards. What difference does it make who gets the money?

The private company requires a profit, so they will always cost more for the same services, unless the company is larger than the government it's servicing. If a private company can provide services cheaper because of economy of scale, that's different, but you're talking about a service performed by trained personnel. It's doubtful a large company could provide cheaper lifeguards, at least not cheap enough to overcome the company's need for a profit margin.

 

Why?

 

Should we have no for-profit hospitals? Should we have no for-profit EMT/ambulance? Private security? Guards? Medical groups? Pharmaceutical companies? Makers of safety equipment?

I'm still on the fence with medicine. I could live with leaving medical practices private but making health insurance part of a public risk pool. Medicine as a business model has some inherent conflicts, but universal health coverage can help mitigate those.

 

Security? Equipment? These are good standard business model items, they don't have the same types of basic conflict that saving lives or medicine has, where the optimum outcome for the customer is the worst thing for the business.

 

Do you think the drowning victim cares who got paid to monitor the beach that day? The life guard is getting paid for doing that job no matter who pays him.

I can't understand the business end of this situation. The people providing the lifeguard service don't benefit when their employees let someone drown who's beyond their scope of contract. The people who're hiring the service can't be seen in a good light by letting a victim drown who was capable of being helped. This sounds like one of those litigation-driven decisions, like refusing to help for fear of being sued.

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I didn't make it up, it's what we did before we started to outsource government jobs to private companies. And I'm not against the practice, but it doesn't always work better that way, and it always has to cost more. Publicly-funded lifeguard operations are interested in guarding public beaches and pools; privately held lifeguard services are interested in making a profit providing such services. Their priorities are different and always will be.

That is just wrong. No one would outsource if they didn't think it was to their benefit.

 

The private company requires a profit, so they will always cost more for the same services, unless the company is larger than the government it's servicing.

Not so. I worked for a consulting firm that had about 8000 employees in the US. We always did it cheaper and got the same or better salary than the employees of the company we worked for. When a company figures the cost per employee they include salary and benefits, but they also include all the overhead such as property taxes, energy, security systems, parking garages, Christmas parties, etc. My company had one VP for the entire US, and rented office space for about 600 people. Even though we received comparable or better salaries than the company employees, our cost per employee was lower and profit margins higher.

 

If a private company can provide services cheaper because of economy of scale, that's different, but you're talking about a service performed by trained personnel. It's doubtful a large company could provide cheaper lifeguards, at least not cheap enough to overcome the company's need for a profit margin.

My son was a lifeguard for about three years. Very few pools in the area hired lifeguards directly. Most went through the same local firm to hire them.

 

I can't understand the business end of this situation. The people providing the lifeguard service don't benefit when their employees let someone drown who's beyond their scope of contract. The people who're hiring the service can't be seen in a good light by letting a victim drown who was capable of being helped. This sounds like one of those litigation decisions, like refusing to help for fear of being sued.

I agree. This one sounds stupid.

 

Recently an employee of a national convenience store chain near me attacked a man trying to rob his store. The robber ran off with no money. The next day the employee was fired for not handing over the money. Obviously a different case but this company didn't want employees to get the idea that fighting back was a good idea and maybe get themselves killed.

 

I doubt the lifeguard company has a policy that says do not save a drowning man. It is probably more along the lines of 'you cannot leave your zone for any reason'. I'm guessing someone read the policy and fired him without bothering to start up his brain and think about it first.

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That is just wrong. No one would outsource if they didn't think it was to their benefit.

There are other benefits than costs. Sometimes it can be about reducing corporate infrastructure, like not hiring cooks to work for you in your employee lunchroom, when your expertise is making electronics. Sometimes it can be about not having to increase other areas, like Accounting or Human Resources.

 

But take any program that private business can come up with to service this scenario with the lifeguards. No matter what they come up with, a publicly funded model should be able to do the same thing for at least 20% less because they don't have to make a profit. They should be able to focus on what a lifeguard does, not what his actions mean for the business.

 

 

Not so. I worked for a consulting firm that had about 8000 employees in the US. We always did it cheaper and got the same or better salary than the employees of the company we worked for. When a company figures the cost per employee they include salary and benefits, but they also include all the overhead such as property taxes, energy, security systems, parking garages, Christmas parties, etc. My company had one VP for the entire US, and rented office space for about 600 people. Even though we received comparable or better salaries than the company employees, our cost per employee was lower and profit margins higher.

Some models work best with a for-profit motive, but others are at odds with the real objectives of capitalism. If using weapons against your enemies led to actual peace, then war would be a bad for-profit business.

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There are other benefits than costs. Sometimes it can be about reducing corporate infrastructure, like not hiring cooks to work for you in your employee lunchroom, when your expertise is making electronics. Sometimes it can be about not having to increase other areas, like Accounting or Human Resources.

Every single company outsources (probably), and it is cheaper for them to do so than to do it in house. Car manufacturers buy steel, they don't make it themselves. They outsource the office cleaners. It is usually cheaper to outsource software development than to do it in house in the US. Who makes their own office supplies? McDonalds outsources some of their order taking to a company in Colorado. As in, 'welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?'. Often times the person asking you that is not in the store you are at but is in a call center in CO. Pfizer outsources their help desk to the Dominican Republic. My job got outsourced to two guys in India. When IBM came out with their first PC the only hardware they manufactured was the keyboard and the 'IBM' logo. The US Navy does not make their own ships. The Airforce does not make its own planes or satellites. NASA didn't build the optics for Hubble.

 

But take any program that private business can come up with to service this scenario with the lifeguards. No matter what they come up with, a publicly funded model should be able to do the same thing for at least 20% less because they don't have to make a profit. They should be able to focus on what a lifeguard does, not what his actions mean for the business.

So what do you think happened? According to the link in the OP:

Hallandale Beach began outsourcing its lifeguards in 2003 to save money. The city pays Jeff Ellis and Associates about $334,000 a year to provide four lifeguards and one supervisor at the beach year-round, said city spokesman Peter Dobens.

The company also provides lifeguard services at the city’s pools as part of the contract.

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But where to draw the line between what is good for the company, and what's good for humanity?

 

Where a case of human life rests in the balance.

 

what is good for the company

 

 

Just how is the loss of a human life good for any company unless you happen to be running a concentration camp or a private mercenary unit?

 

Precisely why certain services should never be privatised.

 

'Douchebag' isn't a strong enough term. If I were late for work one morning because I'd stopped along the way to save someone's life, I'd expect my boss to understand.

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Regarding the question about outsourcing to a company or not, my opinion is simple: it's a public beach, and the risk of drowning is a public risk (i.e. it can happen to everyone), so risk mitigation should be done with public money. Since there is no proof that public services (healthcare, safety issues) are cheaper when outsourced, I just don't see the point of giving away the control to a company. Sure, companies can do certain things better than the government, but there are limits.

 

So, my preferred solution: use tax payers' money to hire lifeguards, and make them government employees, thereby keeping it under direct government control.

Actually, in the Netherlands, the lifeguards and the coastguard work together a lot. That means that our entire coastline is guarded, and any lifeguard can quickly call in even helicopter support if needed.

 

To the supporters of privatization, I would like to ask: how far can privatization go? Would you also consider outsourcing the coastguard? Police? Firefighters? Army? Airforce? The government itself?

 

Where a case of human life rests in the balance.

So, what if the victim risks only a broken leg?

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So, what if the victim risks only a broken leg?

 

He was in the water, so risked drowning.

 

Would you hesitate to aid someone with a broken leg just because your company said it was outside of your 'zone'?

 

What the hell are we becoming?

 

To the supporters of privatization, I would like to ask: how far can privatization go? Would you also consider outsourcing the coastguard? Police? Firefighters? Army? Airforce? The government itself?

 

If today's happy little story is anything to go by, I'm absolutely opposed to it. It's recently become of some concern in the UK, as it's already been proposed. I believe it should be resisted on all levels.

Edited by Abecedarian
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He was in the water, so risked drowning.

 

Would you hesitate to aid someone with a broken leg just because your company said it was outside of your 'zone'?

 

What the hell are we becoming?

Hey! You're turning this around! It was you who said: "Where a case of human life rests in the balance.", which obviously excludes non-life threatening injuries.

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