Beach season begins with Lifeguard shortage across Nova Scotia

Lifeguards who work for the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service (NSLS) and Halifax Regional Municipality are set to report for duty on Friday, July 1.

“We’re very glad to have the lifeguard service, especially when the beach gets really busy in the summer,” says Beth Taylor.

She says she plans to bring her family to Birch Cove Beach in Dartmouth, several times a week.

This peace of mind for parents — has been a human resources headache.

Paul D'Eon has been with the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service for 48 years — he says this has been one of the most challenging on record for hiring.

“During the past two years with COVID-19, all the pools around Nova Scotia did not conduct training, so that usual 15 and 16-year-old cohort is not there. Plus, the older guards have moved on, so the combination of those things has reduced our numbers of available lifeguards,” says D’Eon.

One popular spot impacted is Clam Harbour Beach, famous for its sandcastle competition every August. D’Eon says the earliest lifeguards could be on duty is mid-July, due to staff shortages and supply chain issues.

“We are in the process of getting a new storage shed built there, and it’s not going to be available immediately,” says D’Eon.

With no guards on duty at Clam Harbour beach, some are choosing to frequent supervised beaches or lake beaches.

“With the ocean beaches, I think it’s extremely important to have lifeguards because it doesn’t matter how good a swimmer you are. You can get caught in a current easily,” says Cavell Hudson of Dartmouth.

Numbers show that lifeguards on duty make a difference.

According to the NSLS, in 2021, more than 300,000 people visited Nova Scotia beaches and lifeguards made more than 100 life-saving rescues. Since the service began 50 years ago, its lifeguards have supervised nearly 20 million people and have made nearly 5000 rescues.

D’Eon says, other than Clam Harbour, all beaches are now staffed. In fact, some beaches, including Inverness Beach, will have additional staff added this year.