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Cash-Based Fitness and Wellness: Is Your Practice’s Facility In-Shape?

Posted On: October 25, 2017

Cash-Based Fitness and Wellness: Is Your Practice’s Facility In-Shape?

The health club industry was worth 81 billion U.S. dollars worldwide in 2015, a figure not lost on the physical therapy industry looking to bulk up. More and more practices add cash-based fitness and wellness centers to their business models each year. However, with growth comes added risk. Proper planning and risk management is essential to ensuring the safety and security of all who use your facility. So, let’s start at the beginning.

Gearing Up

We all know the friend who “doesn’t do cardio,” but let’s assume your business model offers a bit more than free weights. You’ll need a variety of exercise equipment, then—cardiovascular/aerobic equipment (stationary bikes, ski/rowing machines, mechanical stairs, treadmills, etc…) and strength equipment (single and multiple station machines to tone or condition shoulders, legs, back and abdomen).

A host of manufacturers serve this market, but we recommend focusing on institutional-quality equipment from reputable companies. This is definitely a case where you get what you pay for, and it’s worth putting a little extra money into the right equipment to reduce the risk of user injury.

Lay It Out

Planning and organization are important everywhere, even your physical space. So…

  • Space out your equipment: Manufacturers typically provide recommendations for the amount of space needed around pieces of equipment. They also typically know what they’re talking about, wanting workouts to be safe and effective. Be sure to follow their guidelines. It’ll help prevent overcrowding of people too.

  • Light the way: 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.

  • Hit the showers: Check local and state health codes and regulations that apply to public locker rooms, restrooms and showers. Consider accessibility for patients, members and employees with disabilities, and place signs 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 users 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.

Keeping It Tight

It takes work to keep your facility in-shape, so daily housekeeping practices are a must. All exercise equipment should be sanitized, locker rooms and showers inspected every day. Place sweat mats under all cardio equipment.

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

Working It

Ensure that all members of your team are trained to operate the fitness equipment in your facility. Certifications like ACE Personal Trainer or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) are valuable, helping your staff make correct recommendations to patients and visitors using your facility.

Each member of your staff – not only your fitness center staff but all staff who comes in direct contact with your patients and visitors – should also be qualified to perform first aid and CPR. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) should be installed in appropriate locations throughout your facility.

Back It Up

To help protect your club from potential liability, all patients, 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.

The Mental Sweat

You should check with your insurance agent or broker, legal counsel, and your local and state regulations regarding signage requirements for fitness centers. All signs should be large, legible, and placed in conspicuous locations. A sign clearly stating the fitness center is for use by patients, members and employees should be placed where people can see it as they enter the facility.

Manufacturer’s printed instructions for equipment use should be placed near each piece. If you offer a locker room or changing area, include a disclaimer regarding the liability for any loss associated with locker room use and warn the users about protecting their valuables and personal possessions. Also be sure to provide a warning sign about slippery floors.

Your Safety Rope

Be sure to let your insurance agent or carrier know if you have or are considering starting a fitness or wellness facility as part of your business model. Many standard policies do not cover additional exposures related to fitness, so it’s vital to make any adjustments to your coverage as needed. Finding a carrier that can combine your General and Professional Liability Insurance into the same policy is often a good solution.

Rest Day

As physical therapy practices nationwide continue to grow their businesses with cash-based fitness and wellness programs, it’s vital to plan ahead and make sure you are actively managing for these additional risks. Proper planning and risk management will help you protect your business, your employees, and ensure the safety and security of all who use your facility.

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