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LCQ15: Training for and services of lifeguards of public swimming pools and beaches
     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):

     A government lifeguard union has relayed to me that the lifeguards employed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) have all along not received appropriate professional training, thus affecting their service quality and swimmers' safety. Furthermore, the wastage of lifeguards is serious and the management lacks an understanding of the work of lifeguards. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the following statistics in respect of the public swimming pools and beaches under LCSD's management: (i) number of swimmers who were injured but refused to be sent to hospital, (ii) number of swimmers who were seriously injured or got drowned, and (iii) number of ambulance calls made, in each of the past 10 years (with a tabulated breakdown by name of swimming pool and beach);

(2) as the union has relayed that the basic adult first aid training of around 30 hours currently provided by the Auxiliary Medical Service to the lifeguards is not adequate for enabling lifeguards to properly handle various practical situations, whether the Government will consider appointing a specialist consultant physician as the medical director for lifeguard training to help formulate a series of appropriate training programmes and practical guidelines for lifeguards; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) given that some new recruits of lifeguards received practical training only after commencing duties, and that lifeguards have not been provided with proper diving rescue training, whether the Government will consider the union's suggestion that a lifeguard training school be established (i) to provide lifeguards with appropriate and systematic training programmes which have long-term goals (including training on the use of various types of rescue equipment) and, after the school has obtained the accreditation by the International Life Saving Federation, (ii) award lifeguards with accredited certificates; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) as the union has pointed out that LCSD's practice of recruiting seasonal lifeguards afresh each year has deprived lifeguards of job security, which has resulted in young people being unwilling to join the grade, the number of experienced lifeguards dwindling and recruitment difficulties, and that the number of swimmers going to swimming pools and beaches during winter time has increased in recent years due to the opening of new heated public swimming pools and the warm weather, whether the Government will recruit more lifeguards on permanent employment terms; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(5) given that the entry requirement on academic qualification for swimming pool and beach trainees is completion of Secondary Three, while that for lifeguards is completion of Primary Six, of LCSD's considerations in setting such entry requirements; whether LCSD will consider reviewing the entry requirement on academic qualification for lifeguards; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(6) as it is learnt that, at present, some public swimming pools and beaches are situated in locations where ambulances have difficulty in arriving at the spot within the target response time of 12 minutes, of LCSD's measures to address the issue; whether it will consider the union's suggestion that joint rescue services for such swimming pools and beaches be provided by lifeguards, the Government Flying Service, the Fire Services Department and the Marine Police; if so, of the details and the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that;

(7) whether the directorate grade officers who are now responsible for managing public swimming pools and beaches are required to have knowledge on and experience of life-saving and first aid; if not, whether it will consider setting such requirement so that the management will have a better understanding of the life-saving and first aid tasks performed at swimming pools and beaches; and

(8) whether the officers-in-charge of swimming pools and beaches are currently required to have received training on life-saving and first aid; if not, whether it has assessed if such officers are able to effectively coordinate the life-saving and first aid tasks involved at swimming pools and beaches; given that currently only the officers-in-charge are authorised to make ambulance calls, of LCSD's measures to prevent any delay in life-saving operations caused by the officer-in-charge not being at the scene?



     The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) has always attached great importance to training of lifeguards and allocates resources annually to provide civil service lifeguards with a wide array of training opportunities. My reply to the eight parts of question is as follows:

(1) Please see annexes 1 and 2 for the respective numbers of rescue cases, drowning cases and accidents at public swimming pools and beaches of LCSD over the past ten years.

(2) and (3) LCSD has always attached great importance to staff training and has its own dedicated Training Section. At present, the Training Section plans and provides lifeguard training courses of different types to civil service lifeguards, including refresher courses on lifesaving and first aid skills, courses on skin diving rescue and scuba diving rescue skills, etc. These vocational training courses and the relevant accreditation are normally assessed and issued by authorised institutions, which are recognised both locally and internationally. The LCSD has been working in co-operation with relevant specialised departments and institutions, including the Department of Health, the Hospital Authority, the Auxiliary Medical Service and the Hong Kong Life Saving Society, etc., in designing and providing lifeguard training. Their professional expertise, skills, equipment, apparatus and recognised status, etc. are conducive to the provision of suitable training to the lifeguards. The LCSD will work on the well-established and sound foundation to enhance collaboration and communication with the partners to ensure that the contents, design and standards of lifeguard training courses can keep abreast of time.

(4) The existing establishment of civil service lifeguards basically reflects the present position in terms of the opening hours and actual situation of public swimming pools and beaches of the LCSD. The department reviews the manpower deployment annually and seeks additional resources under the mechanism to increase manpower if necessary. The total number of civil service lifeguards has increased by 35 per cent from 893 in 2011 to 1 204 in 2017.

     Apart from some public swimming pools and beaches which are open through the year, other facilities are mainly open in the swimming season every year. Hence, non-civil service contract seasonal lifeguards will be recruited according to operational and service needs in the swimming season. Since seasonal lifeguards are employed on a short-term basis, their mobility is higher than that of civil service lifeguards. In addition to stepping up publicity and recruitment efforts, the LCSD has also adjusted upwards the remuneration in terms of salaries and gratuities for seasonal lifeguards as appropriate, streamlined recruitment procedures and organised more walk-in recruitments as well as recruitment talks with schools and organisations, etc. to attract more eligible applicants to apply for the post. The 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.

(5) The LCSD has launched the Beach/Swimming Pool Trainee Scheme (the Scheme) integrating training and internship in order to encourage and inspire young people aged between 16 and 24 to better equip themselves, actively plan for future development and serve the community. Upon completion of the internship course, the young people can make a choice with regard to their own situations as to whether to become civil service lifeguards or seasonal lifeguards of the LCSD or to seek other opportunities. Quite a number of trainees of the Scheme joined the life-saving and lifeguard profession. As the target participants of the Scheme are Hong Kong youths aged between 16 and 24 and they normally have at least completed junior secondary school education, such requirements are therefore stipulated in the entry requirements of the Scheme.

     The major responsibility of LCSD lifeguards is to provide lifesaving and lifeguard services. Hence, candidates are required to possess valid Beach Lifeguard Award or Pool Lifeguard Award issued by the Hong Kong Life Saving Society (HKLSS) and meet other entry requirements to prove that they possess recognised capability to perform lifesaving and lifeguard duties. As regards academic attainment, Lifeguards who have completed primary school education or equivalent can basically meet the daily communication and operational requirements. Hence, there are not sufficient justifications for raising the entry requirements on academic qualifications for lifeguards for the time being. Comprehensive induction training is provided to new recruits and various refresher courses to in-service lifeguards every winter to provide continuing education opportunities to help them develop their career. 

(6) Whenever any victim in an accident or a drowning incident needs to be taken to hospital for emergency treatment, the duty officer-in-charge of the swimming pool/beach will immediately report to the 999 Control Centre. Officers will be deployed to the scene at once. Under normal circumstances, officers will arrive within nine minutes for venues on the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and 15 minutes for venues in the New Territories. The Police will also coordinate with relevant departments for deploying the most appropriate emergency vehicles/ambulances or Police vessels to the scene in the light of the circumstances of the incident, including its location, nature, number of persons involved, and conditions of the victim, etc. In the meantime, the LCSD lifeguards will provide rescue/emergency services to the victim as appropriate. For locations that are inaccessible by land or marine traffic, the Police will coordinate with the Government Flying Service to deploy a helicopter to the scene to help in the rescue effort.

(7) The management of the LCSD attaches great importance to the operation of aquatic venues, and reviews and improves the overall situation and development from time to time. At present, the management teams of aquatic venues comprise officers with years of the relevant management experience being familiar with the operation of the venues and the work of frontline staff. The LCSD considers that the existing mode of management has been operating effectively, it is therefore unnecessary to raise the requirements in respect of knowledge and experience in lifesaving and first aid skills of the management.

(8) Managers (Assistant Leisure Services Manager II) and officers-in-charge (Amenities Assistant of various ranks) of public swimming pools and beaches of the LCSD currently are not required to receive lifesaving and first aid training. However, the LCSD organises training courses (e.g. management of public swimming pools and beaches) from time to time for venue managers and officers-in-charge. Guidelines on the management of swimming pools and beaches have been drawn up by the LCSD for venue managers, officers-in-charge and management officers concerned to follow. In view of this, officers-in-charge and lifeguards should have adequate knowledge about the daily operation of the venues, workflow of rescue operation and duties of each job position.

     Duty Senior Artisans (Beach/Swimming Pool) normally coordinate rescue operation at swimming pools and beaches and lead duty Artisans (Beach/Swimming Pool) in providing the necessary lifesaving services. In general, officers-in-charge of swimming pools/beaches will call the 999 Control Centre for an ambulance immediately in case of any accidents, rescue and drowning incidents. Other venue staff will also assist in calling the 999 Control Centre as soon as practicable.
Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:03
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