Beach Water Safety Management - Ergonomic approach to study lifeguards effectiveness & vigilance

TitleBeach Water Safety Management - Ergonomic approach to study lifeguards effectiveness & vigilance
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsHartmann, D, Meyer, J
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers03-27

­Each year, a long-term average of 44 people dies from drowning along the 190 kilometers of Mediterranean beaches of Israel. Most of these drowning (> 99%) occur on unguarded beaches with no lifeguards services. According to Branche and Stewart (2001): "Evidence suggests that lifeguard services benefit public safety by saving lives, lowering drowning rates, and preventing injuries in aquatic recreational environments. Lifeguards also indirectly provide economic and social benefits. They add to the savings in emergency medical care and long-term hospital treatment involving cases of near-drowning (Hassell 1997) and alleviate emotional trauma and social costs to family and friends.

We present the summary of some primary studies taken with industrial engineering approach, especially using ergonomic methodology and tools. The reasons for this approach are mainly to help improve lifeguards effectiveness and especially to clarify to policymakers and decision makers in Israel the importance of employing professional, well trained lifeguards. The key idea is to study the ordinary activities and workspace of lifeguards by means of well known and accepted tools used very successfully in the industry for almost a century remembering that tourism industry is industry as well.

The work of the lifeguard involves a decision making process under pressure, in very complex and complicated, ever-changing outdoor hostile marine environments. This work tries to investigate the various factors influencing the lifeguards’ "natural" decisions making to proactive prevent drowning or to actively rescue drowned people. The data was collected through field observations and interviews of lifeguard's activities, during the months of the main swimming season. The factors were divided into three groups: environmental factors, swimmer related factors and lifeguards related factors. The lifeguards’ instant decisions were studied by the actions they took and their response to the given environmental morphodynamic conditions and swimmers' behavior.

After identifying the factors which influence the lifeguards’ decisions making, a primary theoretical model was constructed. This model emphasizes the abilities of well trained and experienced professional lifeguards to take very quick and efficient (lifesaving) natural decisions, mostly preventative, in a very hostile working environment. The model at this stage is a quantitative one and we look forward to collect more empirical and quantitative data to improve it. A dry lifeguard is a good lifeguard.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Industrial engineering tools such as Ergonomic Analysis are crucial for modern Beach Water Safety Management which plays an important role in modern tourism industry.
  2. Parameterization of lifeguard's, swimmer's and environmental morphodynamic factors and modelling of the results can illuminate the working-space: the beach, and make the whole work "drowning prevention and lifesaving" more efficient.
  3. Implying professional Industrial Engineering tools and methodologies can save many lives and be cost effective.
  1. Branche CM, Stewart S. (Editors), (2001): Lifeguard Effectiveness: A Report of the Working Group. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
  2. Green, Y., and Assaf D., (2006): Analysis of lifeguard's activities along the Israeli Mediterranean beaches from ergonomic perspectives. Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel. 4th year student's thesis.
  3. Hartman, D. (2006): Beach management and drowning along the Israeli Mediterranean Beaches. Journal of Coastal Research, 22, 1505-1514.
  4. Malca, A., (2007): A proposed statistical model for Decision Making by Israeli lifeguards. Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel. 4th year student's thesis.
  5. Pick, K., and Hartmann, D. (2004): Onshore Storminess Factor (ONSF): A New Meteo-Oceanographic Tool for Drowning Risk Analysis and Beach Safety Management. Proceedings of First International Conference on the Management of Coastal Recreational Resources, Malta. 351-356.
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