LCQ11: The manpower situation of lifeguards

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Ho Kai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (July 12):

     Some lifeguards under the employment of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) have relayed to me that the long-term shortage of lifeguard manpower in LCSD has not only increased the workload of the serving lifeguards and accelerated their wastage, but also posed a safety hazard to swimmers. Inrespect of the manpower situation of lifeguards, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of occasions in each month of the past three years in which LCSD (i) temporarily closed the swimming facilities in public swimming pool complexes and (ii) suspended lifesaving services at public beaches, together with a breakdown by cause;
(2) of (i) the establishment and strength of civil service lifeguards, with a tabulated breakdown by the education level they attained (i.e. primary, secondary, tertiary or above, and others) and the age group to which they belonged (i.e.

18 to 22, 23 to 30, 31 to 40, 41 to 50, 51 to 60 and 61 or above), and (ii) the number of civil service lifeguards transferred to positions in other grades or other government departments (with a breakdown by grade and government department), in each of the past two years;
(3) whether it knows (i) the annual numbers of swimming pools in private housing estates and (ii) the monthly numbers of lifeguards on duty at such swimming pools, in the past three years (with a tabulated breakdown by District Council district); and
(4) whether it knows, in each of the past three years, the number of participants in the Honorary Lifeguard Incentive Scheme operated by the Hong Kong Life Saving Society, with a tabulated breakdown by the age group to which they belonged (i.e. 18 to 22, 23 to 30, 31 to 40, 41 to 50, 51 to 60 and 61 or above)?


     Currently, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) manages 43 public swimming pools, 41 gazetted public beaches (38 of which provide lifeguard services), and five water sports centres across the territory. The safety of swimmers has always been the prime concern for LCSD in arranging the manpower of lifeguards.

My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:
(1) LCSD will consider closing the entire swimming pool complexes or suspend the lifeguard services at beaches in response to unexpected incidents such as inclement weather, water pollution at swimming pools/beaches, urgent repair works, red tide, oil spill or unexpected absence of lifeguards, etc. For details on the closure of the entire swimming pool complexes or the suspension of lifeguard services at beaches for the reasons mentioned above in the past three years, please refer to Annex 1.
(2) As at August 1, 2016, there were 2 044 lifeguards in LCSD, including 1 162 civil service lifeguards and 67 ex-council contract lifeguards employed on a long-term regular basis. The remaining 815 were non-civil service contract seasonal lifeguards employed on a seasonal basis so as to augment the manpower of lifeguards during the swimming season. 
     There has been a steady increase in the number of civil service lifeguards, increasing by 30 per cent from 893 in 2011 to 1 162 in 2016.

A total of 49 additional civil service lifeguards posts were created in LCSD in 2016-17. There is no difficulty in the recruitment of civil service lifeguards and their resignation rate has all along been lower than the average rate of the entire civil service, indicating that there is no retention difficulty. Since seasonal lifeguards are employed on a short-term basis, their mobility is naturally higher than that of civil service lifeguards. In addition to stepping up publicity and recruitment efforts, remuneration in terms of salaries and gratuities, etc, for seasonal lifeguards has also been adjusted upwards as appropriate to attract more eligible applicants to apply for the post. LCSD will also continue to recruit eligible retired civil service lifeguards as seasonal lifeguards, and implement a number of measures, including the launch of different training programmes and trainee schemes integrating training, internship and recruitment so as to enhance the overall manpower supply of lifeguards.

     With regard to the entry requirements of civil service lifeguard, only applicants with specified qualifications, academic qualifications, good eyesight and who passed the selection interviews and trade tests, etc. required by LCSD with proven capability to perform life-saving duties and related work would be considered for appointment. The relevant qualifications include valid Pool Lifeguard Award or Beach Lifeguard Award or above issued by the Hong Kong Life Saving Society (HKLSS) and valid First Aid Certificate issued by the St.

John Ambulance Association, Hong Kong Red Cross or Auxiliary Medical Service. All civil service lifeguards appointed by LCSD possess the qualifications mentioned above. The department does not maintain statistics of the education profile of lifeguards.

     For details on the establishment, actual manpower, age distribution of civil service lifeguards and those who had transferred to other grades or other government departments in each of the past two years, please refer to Annex 2.

(3) According to the Swimming Pools Regulation (Cap. 132CA), artificially constructed pools (except those which serve not more than 20 residential units and which are not accessible by the public) used for swimming or bathing and to which the public have access (whether on payment or otherwise) or which are operated by any club, institution, association or other organisation require a swimming pool licence from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). For the number of licensed private swimming pools broken down by District Council districts from 2014 to 2016, please refer to Annex 3.
     According to the Swimming Pools Regulation, the licensee of a swimming pool shall, at all times during which the pool is open to swimmers, deploy not less than two lifeguards possessing valid certificates of competency in life saving and first aid. FEHD does not maintain the monthly number of lifeguards on duty at private swimming pools.
(4) Honorary lifeguards of the HKLSS and its venue-based lifeguard clubs provide lifeguard services for swimming pools and beaches of LCSD on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during the peak swimming season each year. The Honorary Lifeguard Incentive Scheme (the Scheme) has been launched by the HKLSS since 1999 to motivate more people to take part in honorary lifeguard service. Lifeguards providing five or more shifts of honorary lifeguard service within the same year with good service record and nomination by affiliated clubs will be awarded. The total number of shifts of honorary lifeguard services provided by honorary lifeguards for swimming pools and beaches of LCSD and the number of awardees of the Scheme in the past three years are tabulated as follows:
Year Number of shifts of honorary lifeguard services provided
(4 hours per shift)
Number of awardees of the Scheme
2014 4 518 249
2015 3 729 217
2016 3 947 253

     The HKLSS indicated that it does not maintain information on the age profile of the awardees.

Published on: 2017-07-12

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