Lifeguards unfazed by vaccine mandate

Lifeguards on Mount Main Beach. Photo: Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Media.

Lifeguards in the Bay of Plenty say they aren’t fazed by having to be vaccinated before patrolling our beaches this summer.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand announced the mandated Covid-19 double-vaccine requirements late last week, with all paid and volunteer lifeguards needing to be jabbed by January 1, 2022.

But Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service chair Jamie Troughton says his club’s board already incorporated the policy early last month.

“It’s a no-brainer as far as we're concerned,” says Jamie. “We often dwell on the frontline of emergency services, and our first priority is the safety of our volunteers, closely followed by the safety of the public we’re committed to protecting.

“The club is expecting a busy season on the beach this summer, once Aucklanders are allowed to travel.

“The forecast La Nina weather patterns can also produce more swell on the east coast of New Zealand.”

While a handful of club members are wavering on whether to get vaccinated, the vast majority see it as an inevitable step in the next phase of living with Covid-19.

“Our staff and committees have spent a lot of time developing plans so that our lifeguards can continue to patrol and train,” says Jamie. “But it’s a pretty dynamic situation and we’re constantly adapting.

“That’s exactly what our roles involve anyway – there are no two days the same on the beach and assessing risks and hazards is a big part of our role of keeping the public safe.”

Surf Life Saving New Zealand spokesperson Lwindi Ellis says that if lifeguarding services had to be shut down during the busy summer period, the risks of drowning at patrolled beaches would be high.

Ellis says the mandate decision comes in the wake of consultation between the Surf Life Saving NZ medical director and the Ministry of Health, which concluded that lifeguards are covered by the government vaccination mandate for certain roles.

She says their own risk assessment also indicates vaccination is a necessary protection measure, and that Health and Safety at Work Act obligations mean they “have a duty of care to both our volunteers and members of the public”.

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