RIDEM offers incentives to fill major state lifeguard shortage

WESTERLY, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management is offering incentives and raising pay rates to fill significant staffing shortages as the summer nears closer.

The state is facing an ongoing lifeguard shortage; RIDEM spokesperson Mike Healey hopes to at least meet the bare minimum to operate the beaches.

“We’d like to have 150 lifeguards,” said Healey. “But last summer we only had 85 to 90… If we could get 100 lifeguards — so three times as many as we have right now — I feel like that would be a win.”

Healey said there are only 34 lifeguards currently employed for this summer to monitor state beaches.

The DEM is now competing with private properties and clubs, paying lifeguards more.

Healey explained, “We’re offering $500 sign on bonuses, and $500 retention bonuses if you stay on the whole summer and have fewer than five call-outs. An increase in hourly pay will help attract more lifeguards and summertime workers.”

Lifeguards can expect roughly $16 an hour.

As in years past, Healey fears they may have to close off parts of the state beaches and minimize swim areas due to the lack of lifeguards.

Healey and his team have noticed increased frustration with beachgoers.

“We would never close a beach because we would have an absolute riot on our hands,” Healey added. “People who are going to beaches are a lot angrier than they ever used to be… We do rely on people being good people, and not doing stupid stuff.”

Categories: News, Rhode Island