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Introduction:

Getting fit is no craze in the United States. Fitness is a full-blown American lifestyle. According to statista.com, the number of fitness and health centers in the U.S. increased nearly 21 percent from 30,022 in 2008 to 36,180 in 2015.

Those figures are not lost on the club industry. Many clubs feature on-premises fitness centers as not only a way for their members, guests, and employees to trim off a few pounds, but also as a key element as they evolve into a one-stop fitness shop.

While injuries associated with fitness equipment are not frequent, they can be serious, leading to liability impact. Some clubs elect to contract the operation and management of their fitness centers out to qualified entities. Going that route requires contract terms that address indemnification and minimum insurance.

However, the majority of club fitness centers are managed by the clubs themselves. In this case, proper planning and risk management is essential to ensuring the safety and security of all who use the facility.

Equipment Considerations:

Depending on what services you offer or plan to offer through your fitness center, you will need a variety of exercise equipment. A host of manufacturers serve this market, but we recommend focusing on institutional-quality equipment from reputable companies.

Exercise equipment comes in two basic categories:

·         Cardiovascular or aerobic equipment: Examples include stationary bikes, ski and rowing machines, mechanical stairs and treadmills.

·         Musculoskeletal equipment: Single and multiple station exercise machines to tone or condition shoulders, legs, back and abdomen. Avoid free weights; rather select machines with enclosed weight stacks. Do not allow users of your fitness center to bring their own weights to the facility.

Depending on what other services you wish to include, you might also need tanning booths, massage tables, towels and robes, and other items.

Facility and Layout:

There are several areas regarding the physical nature of an on-site fitness center to consider:

·         Spacing of equipment: Adhere to manufacturer recommendations to reduce possible interference as people use the equipment.

·         Sequence and traffic flow: Should be appropriate to avoid overcrowding.

·         Safety of users: A see-through glass wall allows passersby to notice anything out of the ordinary, such as a medical emergency. A remote monitoring system is an option, especially for unstaffed fitness centers. Lighting should be adequate and remain on during hours of operation. An emergency phone should be easily accessible and clearly marked with dialing instructions. For all electrical equipment, correct voltage should be determined with outlets located in the floor next to the equipment.

·         Aesthetics: If your fitness center features aerobics and a group exercise area, consider its design, décor, location, and furnishings. Don't be afraid to offer simplicity where it fits and luxury where it's needed.

·         Locker rooms and showers: Check your local and state health codes regarding regulations that apply to public locker and rest rooms and showers. Consider accessibility by disabled members, guests, and employees, and signs should be placed appropriately. Floors should be kept as clean and dry as possible. Use mats to reduce slips and falls, and inspect grab bars and restroom stall doors periodically. Protect your members, guests, and employees from scalding water by installing devices on showers and sinks to prevent water from exceeding a temperature of 120°F at the source and 110°F at the tap.

Housekeeping/Maintenance:

Because of the number of people who have access to your fitness center, it is a must that good housekeeping practices be performed daily. All exercise equipment should be sanitized and locker room and showers inspected every day. Place sweat mats under all cardio equipment.

Ensure that all guards and protective covers are in place at all times. Periodically inspect all exercise equipment, and repair or replace as warranted. Fix or replace all torn carpet or missing tiles immediately to prevent trips and falls.

Staffing:

Hiring qualified individuals to manage and supervise all areas of your club determines the overall success of your facility. Your fitness center is no exception. Hiring specially trained staff is necessary to ensure the satisfaction and safety of your members, guests, and employees who use your health club.

Consider an individual’s credentials such as a phys ed degree or certification by a national health-related association. Each member of your staff – not only your fitness center staff but all staff who comes in direct contact with your members and guests – should be qualified to perform first aid and CPR. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) should be installed in appropriate locations throughout your facility.

Physical Health Questionnaire:

To help protect your club from potential liability, all members and employees choosing to use regularly your fitness center should be required to complete a detailed health survey. Written permission from physicians should be required of pregnant women and people with prior conditions such as heart issues, back problems, or other conditions.

Signage:

You should check with your insurance agent or broker, legal counsel, and your local and state regulations regarding signage requirements for fitness centers and health clubs. All signs should be placed in conspicuous locations. The size of all signs should be such for all to see and read clearly. A sign that clearly states the fitness center is for use by members, guests, and employees should be placed where people can see it as they enter the facility.

Manufacturer’s printed instructions for the use of exercise equipment should be placed near each piece. A disclaimer should be included on all shower and locker room signs regarding the liability for any loss associated with locker room use and warn the guests about protecting their valuables and personal possessions. Provide a warning sign about slippery floors.

Licensing:

Depending on your local and state laws, you may need more than a simple business license. Check with a city official or chamber of commerce to find out what more you might need.

Insurance:

It is often wise to carry a highly inclusive insurance policy in case of accidents or injury occurring at your fitness center. There may also be government regulations that apply to insurance and health clubs. We strongly urge you to consult with your legal counsel and broker or insurance provider if you have or are considering adding a fitness center to your club’s operation.

Conclusion:

Fitness centers promote a healthy life style among your members, guests, and employees. While accidents and injuries are not very frequent, they do happen in fitness centers. Proper planning and risk management will help you manage your fitness center operation and ensure the safety and security of all who use your facility.

David A. Harnois, CCM is a proud employee owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs throughout the world. He may be reached at (973) 984-1000 x111 or at www.affinityclubs.com.

 

ABOUT AFFINITY

Founded in 2007, Affinity Club Underwriters is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services; operations and coverage audits; policy and information storage and archaeology; RFP preparation; market analysis; and help in developing specific loss control programs.  Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private golf and country club venues. Affinity is the only insurance program administrator led by golf industry experts.  

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