Risk Management Best Practices for Fitness Facilities
Developing a risk management strategy for your fitness facility, health club, or personal training studio involves three basic steps:
- Identify the potential risks;
- Evaluate the severity of the potential risks;
- Develop strategies to mitigate the potential risks.
Taking a cold hard look at your facility from a risk management point of view is the first step in developing a risk management plan. Take some time to tour each area of your facility and imagine what possible hazards could possibly arise in each area.
The Locker Room
One of the most common issues involving locker rooms is insufficient supervision. No matter how great your gym members are, it only takes one bad apple to assault someone or cause some sort of damage or disruption. Make sure a staff member is present or conducts a security check at regular intervals.
Where there is water, there is always the risk of a slip and fall injury, and gym members must assume that risk. If it is exacerbated by the presence of standing water or soap, however, that’s another story. Ensure adequate drainage of all shower areas, including walkways between showers and other facilities. Have staff keep an eye out for soap spillage or other liquids which might make walkways slippery.
As with showers, pool users are expected to assume a certain amount of risk due to the possibility of slipping on a wet surface. Make sure nothing adds to the risk, however, such as algae, hoses, mats and other slipping and tripping hazards. Swimming pools add a tremendous amount of risk to your facility; ensure all of the proper signage is posted and maintained, and all lifeguards and personnel are properly trained and alert. Take the time to review the CDC’s updated recommendations regarding COVID-19 and pool safety athttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html.
Injuries caused by weight lifters failing to use a spotter are a major cause for concern. Make sure instructions on proper lifting techniques and warning signs requiring a spotter for certain types of lifts are clearly posted near the free weights.
Conduct and document ongoing maintenance of equipment. Have all of your machines inspected regularly for loose or frayed cables and any other damage or impending failures. Make sure your staff is well trained on how to decommission machines that are not in perfect working order so that a gym member does not inadvertently attempt to use it. Make sure treadmills are strategically placed to reduce the possibility of a gym member stumbling and being thrown into a wall (it’s happened). If you cannot feasibly reposition a treadmill, at least put some padding on the wall behind it.
Facility – Coronavirus Precautions
Since COVID-19 emerged in 2020, protocols for keeping gyms clean and safe have changed dramatically. As our blog “COVID-19 Clean – What’s Next For Gyms?” discussed, vigilant monitoring of the environment is an expected performance marker for any health club today. Ensure your gym does not relax its standards in the new year by establishing a written plan that is implemented by management and understood by employees.
Risk Management & Community Safety
Visitors expect a well-run environment and — if there is an emergency — an organized response. You can offer that to members by taking these simple steps:
- Create a written emergency response plan and practice it at set intervals.
- Install First Aid kits and an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
- Ensure key staff members are trained in first aid and use of the AED. Many states require individuals who use AED’s to also be certified in CPR through a nationally recognized organization such as the American Heart Association.
Write It Down!
A plan is not a plan unless it is written down. The same goes for mitigating risk at your fitness studio. Once you create maintenance and safety protocols, integrate them into your employee manual for on-boarding purposes, implement checklists to ensure compliance, and keep records of inspections, certifications, and training. It’s a good idea for members to sign waivers as well.
There is no way to mitigate all of the risks involved in utilizing a fitness center; however the courts recognize this and will use a “reasonable man” approach to deciding fault. If you have taken all of the precautions that any reasonable person would and should in order to ensure the safety of your gym members, then you have nothing to worry about.
What is your procedure on minimizing risks at your facility?
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This blog ran originally March 6, 2013 and has been updated Jan. 15, 2021