Lifeguard shortage as RNLI to furlough third of staff

The RNLI has had to halt the recruitment and training of lifeguards who usually keep watch at 248 beaches, according to The Guardian.       

It’s planning to furlough a third of its staff and is warning that its lifeguards may only be able to patrol the busiest beaches this summer if the lockdown is suddenly lifted.

The charity has suspended the building of boats and work on lifeboat stations but said its 238 bases remained operational and have been launching during the lockdown.

The RNLI’s chief executive, Mark Dowie, who is taking a 50% pay cut, says: “We have some reserves in place to deal with short sharp shocks to our financial situation. However, we are all facing unprecedented times and we have seen an immediate impact not just on our frontline services, but also on our ability to fundraise.

“We have paused our ongoing planned replacement of equipment and buildings, such as lifeboat station rebuilds and building new lifeboats. We’re also looking at new ways to fundraise online and on social media.”

Dowie says lifeboat stations continued to be busy, helping the likes of commercial fishermen, windfarm workers and people still going out on the water despite the lockdown.

It has had to halt the recruitment and training of the 1,600 lifeguards who usually keep watch at 248 beaches, because they usually work in pairs and groups and because encouraging people to swim in certain areas goes against the lockdown and physical distancing.

He says: “If someone presses the ‘go button’ on the summer season with no notice it won’t be possible to deliver the whole lifeguard network at the drop of the hat. It will take some time to ramp up again. We are focused on delivering the best services we can to the busiest beaches and are looking very closely at how we can do that.”

The furloughed employees will include trainers, workers who usually build new boats and support staff, according to The Guardian.

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