Pool Safety or Business Squeeze? The Gym Lifeguard Debate in Nevada

Candese Charles

In a contentious move by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), the longstanding waiver permitting gyms like the Las Vegas Athletic Club (LVAC) to monitor pools via video surveillance has been revoked.

This decision, prompted by recent incidents, including the tragic death of Leticia Triplett, has sparked debate over governmental control versus private business autonomy. When did SNHD become the guardians of pools in the first place?

History of Gym Pool Safety Debate

Initially granted in April 2020, the waiver allowed gyms to operate pool areas without on-site lifeguards, relying instead on advanced video monitoring systems monitored by trained staff. This approach complied with safety standards and aligned with business operations, avoiding significant additional costs.

LVAC’s response to the SNHD’s mandate has been swift and firm. They argue that their facilities, akin to private clubs, have successfully operated for decades without incident or the need for lifeguards. Moreover, the financial burden of implementing full-time lifeguards—estimated at an additional $4 million annually—threatens their operational viability.

Compliance Issues

Furthermore, according to SNHD documents, LVAC argued that the “Health District has no jurisdiction over its pools,” citing that their gym pools are not public and that their business is a ‘”private club.'”

“Since the lifeguard exemption for gyms was granted in 2020, there have been 29 pool closures at 21 locations due to failures to comply with requirements,” a release the Review-Journal reported explains. “Specific safety plan requirements that were not met included failing to provide active remote monitoring of the pool area and documented walk-throughs of the pool area by facility staff.”

Impact on Business

29 pool closures at 21 locations raise questions about the necessity of such governmental interference in private business practices. The SNHD’s stringent regulations, buried within a convoluted 100-page aquatic facility rulebook, exceed reasonable safety measures and infringe upon individual business decisions.

It’s like wanting to have a backyard barbecue but needing to have the health district allow you to use your grill without the fire department watching. You’ve handled the grill on your own for this long; why would the fire department need to come and watch you now?

Even if there was a fire at your house due to your hotdogs setting one, the fire department wouldn’t force you to stop barbecues in your backyard or close them up.

Balancing Safety and Autonomy

Safety is undoubtedly paramount, but the approach to achieving it must be pragmatic and balanced. Sacrificing the accessibility of health-enhancing activities like swimming and water aerobics, which benefit physical fitness and overall well-being, may ultimately harm public health more than it protects.

While tragedies like the incident at LVAC underscore the importance of safety protocols, excessive regulation risks shuttering businesses, reducing affordable fitness options, and widening health disparities. This potential impact on public health should be a cause for concern.

As we navigate these challenges, we must consider solutions that promote safety without stifling economic opportunity or limiting access to essential recreational facilities. Finding this equilibrium is not just a matter of regulation but also reflects our commitment to community health and individual freedom.

Businesses, including gyms, are adept at managing their operations to attract and retain customers. Forcing unnecessary regulations could lead to unintended consequences, such as reduced access to recreational facilities and increased consumer costs.

Public Health Impact

The broader implications of this mandate are profound. Since the SNHD began enforcing lifeguard requirements, several gyms have closed their pool facilities due to financial strain. This closure trend threatens to limit access to swimming and water aerobics—activities crucial for building muscular strength and cardiovascular health and aiding in weight loss.

For many low-income individuals and families, gym memberships provide affordable access to these health-enhancing activities that may otherwise be out of reach.

Swimming and water aerobics offer numerous health benefits, from improving heart health to aiding in physical rehabilitation. These activities are integral to community wellness. Should residents have to give this up or pay more for it when in other states, families are able to freely enjoy pool access?

National and State Perspectives

States like Texas have well-defined lifeguard rules, often breaking up the type of pools- i.e., public, club, and wading pools- by classes. Pools at private facilities, such as hotels, apartments, or clubs, often don’t require a lifeguard unless they have a slide or diving board.

Washington, DC, followed California, Missouri, and Arizona’s suit in allowing variances in the lifeguard code of property owners who demonstrate a budgetary need. This approach recognizes that different types of pools and facilities have different safety needs, and therefore, ‘one size doesn’t fit all ‘.

Future Implications

As SNHD deadlines loom and appeals from LVAC are under review, the outcome will significantly impact the operations of local gyms and the broader debate on governmental oversight versus private enterprise freedoms. The resolution of this issue will set a precedent for future regulatory decisions affecting businesses and public health policies across Nevada.

While ensuring public safety is crucial, a balance must be struck between regulatory oversight and allowing businesses the flexibility to operate efficiently. Nevada Policy advocates for a measured approach that respects both safety concerns and the autonomy of private enterprises to manage their affairs responsibly and effectively.

The ongoing dialogue between SNHD, LVAC, and advocacy groups underscores the complexity of balancing safety, economic viability, and individual freedoms in our community.

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Candese Charles

Candese Charles

Communications Associate- Public Relations

Candese Charles, the Communications Associate- Public Relations for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, is a dedicated storyteller. She firmly believes that freedom begins with knowledge and is committed to ensuring that all Nevadans are equipped with the knowledge necessary to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Over the past decade, she has passionately worked in journalism, communication, and public relations for local news outlets, nonprofits, and multimillion-dollar companies, advocating for the public.

Originally hailing from Los Angeles, California, Candese and her family have made Las Vegas, Nevada, their home for the past ten years. Despite her journalism career taking her across the country, she was thrilled to return to the Valley in 2022. Her advocacy work spans politics, housing, and education, and she is eager to share her expertise and experiences with the Nevada community, a community she deeply understands and is committed to.

When she’s not fully engaged in her work, Candese can be found cherishing moments with her family or embarking on new adventures. Her first international journey was for a study abroad program in Seoul, Korea, and it sparked her love for travel, a passion she continues to pursue with enthusiasm and curiosity.