MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A lifeguard caught sleeping on the beach was home resting Thursday after a Lack's Beach Service manager said he was diagnosed with heat exhaustion.
He will be rechecked at a medical center next week and also retrained before going back to work, the manager said.
After the video of that lifeguard sleeping went out online, viewers started contacting WMBF News with their concerns about the conditions the lifeguards work in. Those included several former lifeguards and a property owner who got to know the lifeguards in her area.
A current Lack's Beach Service lifeguard also expressed frustration and exhaustion.
One former lifeguard, who did not want his name released, said he started working for Lack's Beach Service last summer.
"Get out of town," he said. "Do something interesting. Work on the beach."
While Lack's Beach Service delivered with that experience, he said the working conditions were very difficult.
"People would say working in a field every single day is more or less like this," he said. "Because we're out in the sun. We're getting beat. We're digging holes. We're setting up umbrellas and chairs. It's a lot of work."
He said he worked more than forty days in a row.
"From May 6 to about the middle of June, I did not have a day off," he said.
On Wednesday, Lack's Beach Service Recruiting and Training Manager Martina Jedlicka said lifeguards get one day off per week if they don't ask for time off. Then, she said they can request additional days.
When asked about the time-off policies again Thursday, she said the information given Wednesday must have been a miscommunication.
On Thursday, she said the lifeguards only get days off when they ask for them and they can work as many days in a row as they want with no limits.
George Lack, the owner of Lack's Beach Service, said that is what the majority of the lifeguards want to do because they are in Myrtle Beach to make money and they will be upset if they are assigned time off.
Lack said he would put a board up Thursday afternoon asking the lifeguards to sign up for any days off they want.
While the former lifeguard said he would be accommodated if he specifically asked for a day off, he said he could lose his stand and, therefore, his commission.
"If you take multiple days off, they won't keep you on a big stand," he said. "Big stand equals big money."
Lack said that is not true. He added a lifeguard recently took a 10-day vacation and returned to the same stand.
The former lifeguard said the exhaustion eventually caught up with him.
"If you don't make yourself do it, you will fall asleep. You have to get up, walk around, do something because sitting there, that's probably one of the hardest parts," he said.
He planned to keep working through it.
"Just get through the summer. That's what we kept telling ourselves," he said. "You have 99 days to make your money for the year. Just get through the summer."
However, he got fired in June.
"I was let go for bad bookkeeping," he said. "It wasn't anything to do with my lifeguarding skills or anything like that."
While he thinks the company fulfills its goal of keeping the beach safe, he thinks the employees could be treated more like people, and not like numbers on lifeguard stands, making the water they're watching even safer.
"Other steps could be taken to take care of us," he said.
The former lifeguard said he did receive the two 15-minute breaks and one 45-minute lunch break daily as employees are promised. He said he didn't frequently receive water or other drinks to stay hydrated, so he'd bring his own water.
Lack said supervisors always have drinks available for the lifeguards.
He said they pass out electrolytes and food every day as well.
Lack said managers check on the lifeguards and if he ever noticed someone could not do their job due to exhaustion, he would be the first to speak up.