Lifeguards are charged with constant vigilance while on the job. Their eyes are always sweeping the water, watching for any potential danger and swimmers in distress. Postings change throughout the day. Some lifeguards will stand on the edge of the water or even in the water, but most pools and beaches need chairs to help lifeguards do their job.
It might seem like any plastic lawn chair or folding beach chair could fill the role, but actual lifeguard chairs are pieces of specialized equipment. These chairs are specifically designed to give lifeguards the vantage point they need to carefully survey the water, whether at a lake, ocean or pool. When a facility sets out to choose a lifeguard chair, it’s important to understand the different lifeguard chair options available and the needs of your specific facility. Use these tips to pick the right lifeguard chair and empower your lifeguards to do their job.
Types of Lifeguard Chairs and the Benefits of Each Type
Lifeguard chairs are made in different types of material and come in different styles. Permanent chairs and portable chairs are the two main categories available. Learn about the differences between these two options:
1. Permanent lifeguard chairs
A permanent lifeguard chair is exactly how it sounds. When you purchase this option, it will be affixed to a specific place on the pool deck and remain there. Most permanent lifeguard chairs are made with a metal frame or fiberglass frame. The chairs and platforms may be made of plastic. The ladder rungs are typically made of plastic to provide a stable, non-slip surface to climb. Here are some of the benefits of selecting a permanent lifeguard chair:
- Space: It is important to have an uncluttered pool deck. Swimmers will crowd the edge of the water. If you have limited space at your pool, you could use a permanent lifeguard chair. The wide platforms that come with many of these chairs give your lifeguards more space at an elevated level. The small base takes up little room, while the lifeguard can comfortably sit on the chair and watch the water.The platforms and rungs of a permanent lifeguard chair can also serve as additional storage space. Lifeguards can keep their rescue gear (like a rescue tube) and first aid kit close at hand. Lifeguards won’t need to scramble down the ladder to grab rescue gear. In most cases, they can jump right from the lifeguard chair into the water and come to the aid of a swimmer in distress.
- Durability: Permanent lifeguard chairs are made of a variety of materials, but this type of chair is designed to last. For example, 304-grade and 202-grade stainless steel, common materials used in lifeguard chairs, are known for resistance to corrosive agents. Fiberglass, another type of material used in lifeguard chairs, is resistant to the potentially corrosive elements of the pool environment. In fact, many pools are made of fiberglass. Plastic, often used to make the seats and pieces of the ladder, is by its nature water-resistant, which means you can rely on it to last.In addition to the durable materials of a permanent lifeguard chair, you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear that comes with moving the seat. Portable chairs are moved throughout a facility on a regular basis, subject to bumps and scrapes along the way, while permanent lifeguard chairs have the benefit of staying in one place.
- Safety: When choosing gear for your lifeguards, safety is a top priority. You want to know that your lifeguards will be safe, and you want to know they can do their job and keep swimmers safe. Permanent lifeguard chairs are designed with this in mind. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) accredits permanent lifeguard chairs, indicating adherence to workplace safety standards.Permanent lifeguard chairs provide a stable spot for lifeguards to sit — or stand in the case of chairs that come with an extended observation platform. This option provides a great elevated visual of the pool, which helps lifeguards do their jobs and observe swimmers.
2. Portable lifeguard chairs
Portable lifeguard chairs are often made in the same style as permanent lifeguard chairs — metal frames, plastic seats and plastic rungs. Instead of having a base designed for permanent placement, portable lifeguard chairs have wheels or easily slidable bases. If you are looking for a portable lifeguard chair of a different material, recycled plastic lifeguard chairs can be moved from place to place. Here are some of the benefits of selecting a portable lifeguard chair:
- Flexibility: Permanent lifeguard chairs are not the right choice for every facility. Portable lifeguard chairs provide more flexibility for staff posting at different events or places around the water. For example, some pools are large enough that not all areas are in use at once. If your facility has a competition or event held in one part of the pool, a portable chair can be moved specifically to that spot.Likewise, portable lifeguard chairs often make the most sense for beaches. Sand does not offer the same stable surface of a pool deck, which means a permanent chair is not always feasible. Plus, lifeguard postings regularly change at the beach, subject to things like the weather and the tide. With portable chairs, you can easily schedule lifeguard postings that meet the requirements of the environment.
- Stability: Portable lifeguard chairs may not be permanently fixed to the pool deck, but they are designed to offer a high level of stability. Portable lifeguard chairs tend to have broad bases designed to support the seat and/or platform. The base can have wheels used for moving the chair across the pool deck or a lawn. Alternatively, the base has non-slip caps — like this Paragon Three-Step Chair. Chairs like this are light enough to be picked up and moved as needed. These chairs are designed to stay stationary when you need them, allowing lifeguards to do their job safely, and to move when you need to rearrange your lifeguard postings.
- Storage: Portable lifeguard chairs tend to be larger than permanent chairs. They may take up more deck space, but the added size means many moveable lifeguard chairs have room for storage. For example, the O-Series Lifeguard Chair has a place to rest a rescue tube behind the back of the seat. Instead of having to continually hold the rescue tube or climb down to reach it, lifeguards have easy access to this important piece of gear within hand’s reach at all times. Other lifeguard chairs, like this one from Kiefer, have hooks to hang rescue buoys. Others, like this Discovery Chair, have mounting brackets for an umbrella to help shield lifeguards from the hot sun.
What to Consider when Choosing a Lifeguard Chair
Now that you understand the difference between permanent lifeguard chairs and portable lifeguard chairs, you need to consider the specifics that go into selecting the model right for your location.
- Material: Lifeguard chairs can be made of wood, plastic or metal. Wood lifeguard chairs tend to be the most basic option. When considering this material, understand which woods are most likely to be water-resistant and durable with regular use. You do not want to invest in a chair that will crack and swell with water damage. You also want to ensure the wood is smooth and safe for your lifeguards to sit in and climb.Plastic lifeguard chairs are a convenient option. Plastic is water-resistant and easy to clean. Plus, many plastic lifeguard chairs are made out of recyclable material, making this a more sustainable option. Additionally, plastic tends to be a lighter material. If you are interested in a moveable option, a plastic lifeguard chair may be the best option.Lifeguard-style chairs can also be made of metal, usually a type of stainless steel. Stainless steel is resistant to rust and the chemicals present in pool water, making this a durable option. Many metal lifeguard chairs are designed to be permanently affixed to one place by the water, but there are also transportable options made of metal.
- Price: Pools and beaches usually need to keep the budget in mind when investing in new gear. Luckily, lifeguard chairs come in a wide variety of price points. Metal, plastic, permanent or portable – you can find an option that works for your budget and facility.The person in charge of purchasing will need to consider what configuration is best when budgeting for a new lifeguard chair. Larger chairs with a platform or wheels for transport will be more expensive than simple chairs featuring only a ladder and a seat. Other features, such as rails and footrests will factor into the cost as well.
- Height: Staffing a pool or beach means posting lifeguards in the right spots. They need to be able to survey their assigned areas with an unobstructed view. Depending on your location, this can be a challenge, which is why lifeguard chairs come in a variety of heights. Some lifeguard chairs are available without ladders. These do not add any height. This type of chair is best for posts right at the water’s edge and posts covering a smaller area of the water. Other chairs can come in heights from three feet — like the Torrey II Mobile Guard Chair — up to eight feet — like this Discovery Chair. Taller chairs are better suited for larger pools, facilities with an unobstructed view at a lower level and at beaches.Consider how many lifeguards you need to cover your facility or beach and the best way to give them an adequate view from their posting. This will help you determine the best height to select for your lifeguard chairs.
- Comfort: Most lifeguards work less than 40 hours a week, but when they are on the job the hours can be long and grueling. Imagine spending an entire eight-hour shift under the hot sun or in the confines of a humid indoor pool. Swimmers may cool off in the water, but lifeguards need to stay sharp and watch the water from the sidelines. This means hours on their feet or sitting in the lifeguard chair. Facility managers want to keep their lifeguards alert, and one of the best ways to do that is to keep them comfortable.When choosing a lifeguard chair, look for options that come with a backrest and a place to rest your feet or armrests. The chair itself should be shaped to mold naturally to the human body. Lifeguard chairs are not cozy armchairs, but they can be a comfortable place for lifeguards to sit while they do their job.
- Location: What are the needs of your pool or beach? The Red Cross recommends setting a standard lifeguard-to-patron ratio with your management staff, as that number increases with larger facilities that can host more swimmers. Review your daily staffing schedule and consider how lifeguards are posted by the water. This will help you determine how many chairs you need.Next, you need to consider where those chairs will be the most effective. Do you need multiple permanent lifeguard chairs with a high vantage point for the lifeguards using them? Or, do you need portable chairs that can be moved to fit the needs of the facility? Permanent lifeguard stands may make sense if the deck space of your pool is limited. The stand is elevated, giving your lifeguards space to observe the water without taking up too much room by the edge of the water. On the other hand, pools used for varying events may find portable lifeguard chairs best fit their needs. For example, pools that host open swim, lap swim, competitions, swim lessons and parties can move a portable chair around the facility with minimal effort to keep swimmers at various activities safe.
Shop The Lifeguard Store
How to choose a lifeguard chair comes down to many factors, including your facility and your budget. Maybe you like the idea of sustainability behind recycled plastic chairs. Maybe you need a permanent chair with a large platform to leave more room on your pool deck. Maybe you need the convenience of a movable chair. Whatever you look for in a lifeguard chair, The Lifeguard Store has options to fit your needs. We offer recycled plastic lifeguard chairs, portable lifeguard chairs and permanent lifeguard chairs. Within each of these categories, you will find a wide variety of sizes and price points to fit the needs of your beach, water park or pool. We also offer parts and accessories to keep your lifeguard chairs in peak condition. Shop The Lifeguard Store to find a chair that keeps your lifeguards safe, comfortable and ready to save lives.