Experts yesterday questioned the commitment of Hong Kong's army of part-time lifeguards following the death of six-year-old Tam Shek-lun, who drowned in a public pool in Fanling where three guards were on duty. Almost half the lifeguards at public pools over the summer months are part-time workers. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department refused to say whether the lifeguards on duty when Shek-lun drowned were part-time or full-time. Shek-lun drowned on Thursday in a pool managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department in San Wan Road after running off from his stepmother and two older sisters. One lifeguard with 20 years' experience at a public pool said: 'Managers try to save money by hiring less experienced staff. They employ part-time lifeguards who are aged only 15, 16 or 17 in some cases.' The lifeguard also accused some part-time staff of being 'irresponsible', often reporting to work only when they felt like it. 'Permanent staff are more devoted to their jobs and they are more responsible,' he said. Former chairman of the Hong Kong Life Saving Teachers' Association Lee Kam-kong said: 'The professional skills of every lifeguard, be they part-time or full-time, should not be in any question since they are all licensed and have passed the test.' He said although there were regular rest intervals for lifeguards in government pools, those employed on a part-time basis could be tired from their regular jobs. Their concentration could be impaired as a result. Mr Lee said a shortage of lifeguards at some government and private pools added to the problems. The situation was worse in private pools, where guards could be on duty for eight hours without a break. The head of the life rescue commission of the Hong Kong Life Saving Society, Kwong Man-lung, said teachers stressed to trainees the importance of keeping their minds on the job. 'During the course of our training, we emphasise concentration as a priority,' Mr Kwong said. 'If they are too fatigued they should not be at the post, or safety will be affected. That's what we always teach them.' The society trains about 1,200 lifeguards every year. There were about 9,000 qualified lifeguards, Mr Kwong said. He added that ideally all lifeguards should be hired on a full-time basis so their skills could improve while on the job. A spokeswoman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it employed 1,065 full-time lifeguards for the 16 government pools, with a further 822 guards hired on contract terms between April and September. The spokeswoman could not say whether the lifeguards at Fanling pool were at their posts when Shek-lun drowned.