Saving, not drowning

Why do people get fired? Yes, I know that in many areas legislation seems to protect anyone from getting fired at all these days and that, say, fiddling your expenses might get you fired in your job but not if you were an MP, but I can’t think of anywhere where there isn’t something you can do that will get you instantly fired on the spot even if it’s hacking your bosses’ heads off and serving them up in the staff canteen.

So accepting that people do still get fired why, in general, does it happen? I’m sure we could come up with a million different reasons why someone would get the Spanish Archer, but we’d probably all agree that almost all of them boil down to some variant of not doing the job for which that individual was hired. I say ‘almost’ there because it turns out it’s also possible to get the sack for what most normal people, but not lawyers, would consider doing exactly the job you were hired to do, as a bloke in Florida found out this week when he was fired from his job as a lifesaver for the gross misconduct of, er, doing some lifesaving.

Liability issues? What the hell are they on about? The only thing I can think of is that because Thomas Lopez left the area of beach and water he was responsible for to rescue someone outside it the company paid by the city to provide lifesavers on the beach might theoretically have been sued if someone else got into difficulties in Lopez’ bit of beach. The signs are there for a reason and I guess that reason is reflecting the reality that help can’t be everywhere at once, and beyond a certain point you can’t necessarily expect there to be any – in this area we will try to help, but beyond it assume that you’ll be on your own. Well, fair enough, but there’s a huge difference between not expecting that there’ll necessarily be help and expecting that perfectly capable help will be instructed to sit on its arse. If I go off camping in the bush to get away from it all for a bit I don’t expect the full range of emergency services to be available, but I’d like to think that if we don’t come back everyone wouldn’t just go “Oh, they went outside our usual area so meh, we’re not even going to go have a look just in case something happens here.” Yet that seems to be roughly the policy at Hallandale beach.

We’re fucked, aren’t we? Seriously, properly, fucked. Western society’s doom is not going to come from outside but from within: a self inflicted death of a thousand3 cuts that come about when nobody has any idea what they’re allowed to do anymore and end up standing there and doing nothing at all, terrified of unwittingly committing some ridiculous but all too real offence or being sued into penury by some tediously thin skinned prick who can’t deal with the fact that the universe isn’t there to give him a blow job every day and that it’s not necessarily someone’s fault when things don’t go his way. This, folks, is our future if we insist on hiring people to save lives but tell them that under no circumstances must they save lives that are in danger in a slightly different place from where they’re on duty, and that in such circumstances they must stand there as those lives are lost to the water. Because ‘liability’.

Did I say the future? Oh, shit.*

I understand that there’s an obligation to provide lifeguard cover on the section of beach marked as having lifeguards, and that if someone drowned because a lifeguard should have been there but wasn’t then calls from the nearest ambulance chasing law firm are practically certain, but as Lopez’ colleagues point out in other videos (e.g. this one) the beach was still covered.

While he was off we had two other guards watching the zones, so the beach was secured.

No doubt some corporate bellend seeking to justify the sackings and hand wave the resignations would say what if those two guys had to do rescues in their own areas or failed to spot someone else in trouble because they were having to mind an extra part of the beach. I can kind of see this but surely you need to consider how likely is the hypothetical situation where every lifeguard is suddenly going to be needed simultaneously at the a time when one of them has left the patrolled area to save someone who’s really in trouble, and in that highly unlikely scenario how is it any different from having x lifeguards employed and x+1 people screaming for help in the patrolled area? If the signs reflect the fact that assistance can’t be everywhere then we have to acknowledge the tiny possibility that it really can’t even be guaranteed to be everywhere in the area that is intended to be covered.

Unfortunately corporate bellends and uber-litigiious types desperate to find blame when life hands out lemons and death hands out calling cards often don’t see things that way, being almost congenitally unable to look beyond the potential for lawsuits and not sufficiently discouraged by courts from doing so. Happily for that one person who got into trouble in the water, Thomas Lopez and his colleagues who resigned or were also sacked have no truck with this nonsense. The courage of lifeguards is to be admired anyway, but the principled stand these half dozen or so have taken is to be admired even more. Doubly so for Thomas Lopez if he even stopped to think about the rules and decided that the rules could go piss, though it seems quite possible that he thought of nothing beyond helping the drowning man stop drowning. Which is what you’d imagine is the key quality you’d be looking for if you were hiring lifeguards.

May they or people very much like them find jobs on beaches where you and your loved ones go. The kind of lifeguard who really would sit on his platform and watch while someone who didn’t fit the to-be-saved criteria drowned should be hired exclusively to patrol beaches frequented by the type of shitwit who’d fire the other kind for rescuing someone beyond the flags.

* I realise I may be being a little unfair there, as I recall that in the infamous ‘PCSOs stood by as someone drowned because of elfinsafetee rules’ story they’d arrived after the victim had gone under, couldn’t be certain where the victim had ended up, and genuinely weren’t equipped or trained to do much more than call for help from people who actually knew what they were doing – since that’s much what a random passerby would have been capable of it’s perhaps more a failure of the concept of PCSOs than the individual PCSOs in that case. On the other hand I did see a few weeks back that a couple of PCSOs went into cold water to save a drowning man, and in the article their superiors were smart enough to avoid any suggestion that this was somehow not the done thing.

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Posted on July 7, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Without knowing the full details of the story it’s hard to say a lot. The company might have *some* grounds for their argument, but I can’t see a judge upholding them. Would they honestly have preferred if he sat in his chair and simply explained to the press later that “Company policy is that we should let kids and bathers die if they’re a few feet off our assigned property.”

    Somehow I don’t think they’d want THAT in the press.

    Of course all this is assuming that he wasn’t gone for hours and just didn’t run over “to see what was happening” after the victim was already safe,

    – MJM

    • “Would they honestly have preferred if he sat in his chair and simply explained to the press later that “Company policy is that we should let kids and bathers die if they’re a few feet off our assigned property.””

      Yeah, I doubt they’d have wanted to see that either, but it sounds like it hadn’t occurred to them.

    • Good grief. Not helped by having four different people in charge over a couple of hours. Too many chiefs, too few indians, too strong an adherence to rules over practicalities. Appalling.

  2. AE, the insanity now knows no bounds. Imagine two decades ago thinking this would be at all possible today. Sheesh.

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