Gyms are places where people go to improve their health and fitness. Generally, they are open to the public, so they need to be safe. Between 1990 and 2007, 970,000 people ended up in the emergency room from strength training-related injuries. One in-depth study found that there is a rate of 3.1 injuries for every 1,000 hours spent CrossFit training.
Gyms have a duty of care to their clients to make them as safe as possible. But, due to the environment, accidents can arise. As well as that, there is always the risk of injury in both aerobic exercise and resistance training.
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to take the right precautions to prevent injury in your fitness facility. In this article, we will discuss how to conduct a thorough risk assessment and the best ways to keep your clients safe at the gym.
Skip ahead to:
- How to Carry Out a Thorough Risk Assessment
- 8 Gym Safety Tips to Help Keep Your Clients Safe
- 1. Gym Equipment Safety
- 2. Onboarding Program
- 3. Health and Safety Training
- 4. Security
- 5. Qualifications and Insurance
- 6. Good Form and Technique
- 7. Keep it Clean
- 8. Supervision
How to Carry Out a Thorough Risk Assessment
In America, every day more than 10,000 people are treated with injuries from sports, a general workout, and recreation. As a business owner and employer, you need to carry out a risk assessment at your gym. By carrying out a risk assessment, it can help you to address any hazards and put procedures in place that protect both your clients and staff. With a complete understanding of any potential risks, you can make your gym environment as safe as possible.
The first step in carrying out a risk assessment is to walk around the facilities and identify the hazards. Thoroughly inspect all of your equipment and machinery. Make sure you also check the locker rooms, staff facilities, and any office space in the building.
As gyms are often open to non-members who may want to look around facilities before committing to a gym membership, you need to take the right steps to protect everyone.
Evaluate the Risks
Once you have identified all of your hazards, you can evaluate the risk that each pose. Determine which hazard could harm who and how. Some groups of people may be more susceptible to injury from a workout such as the elderly. Prioritize your hazards by how great the risk is.
Start with the danger that poses a high risk. Implement controls and procedures that isolate or at least reduce the risk to an acceptable level. For example, you could put warning signs and instructions on gym equipment, supervise the gym floor, train staff effectively, and remove tripping hazards. The measures you put in place should cover what happens in the case of an emergency, including where the first aid kit is located and who is trained to deliver medical help.
Record Your Findings
Record all your findings and the control measures you have put in place to reduce or eliminate the risk of injury. Periodically review the risk assessment and make sure the standards and processes you have are still effective. Any changes in technology, equipment, or facility updates will require you to carry out a new risk assessment. If you have any near misses or serious incidents, push to review your safety practices and re-evaluate hazards and measures.
8 Gym Safety Tips to Help Keep Your Clients Safe
When an incident occurs on your premises, it can leave you open to an insurance claim. As well as fire and burglary, accidents or injuries are the most common types of incidents that can take place. There are a number of steps you can take to prevent common accidents and ensure the safety of your clients.
1. Gym Equipment Safety
Poorly-maintained gym equipment, free weights, machinery, and infrastructure could pose a high risk and lead to serious injury if left unchecked. Therefore, you and your gym staff must carry out regular checks on the equipment. Make sure it’s all serviced regularly with detailed records. Regularly check the gym layout to ensure members have enough space to workout safely.
When it comes to equipment, look out for loose nails, a loose weight, signs of damage, or any sharp edges that could result in an injury. As well as the gym equipment, also be on the lookout for fixtures and storage units that could be damaged and therefore, weakened. Ensure that the temperature of the gym is set right if it’s too hot your clients could become fatigued much quicker than they would normally.
2. Onboarding Program
It’s your responsibility to train your clients to use the equipment correctly. If new members don’t go through a proper and informative induction program, they may use a piece of equipment incorrectly. Create an onboarding program that will be delivered to all new members. This will help your members get the most out of their membership and exercise safely. Your gym’s onboarding program might include:
- Health and hygiene information
- Tour of the gym
- Stretching exercises
- How to use the equipment
- Gym etiquette (wipe machines after use, put equipment back, lower equipment slowly)
- Fitness assessment and exercise program
Even if you require your members to sign an agreement waiver that releases you from any claims, you still need to protect against potential injury. No matter how tight your legal contract is, you may still be liable if your client injures themselves while using your equipment.
3. Health and Safety Training
Employees must be provided with adequate health and safety training. This gives them the knowledge to keep clients and colleagues as safe as possible. For your staff to carry out their duties safely, they need to be fully trained before they step onto the gym floor. It is your responsibility to give your employees proper training. As well as health and safety training, other considerations are first aid training and fitness training.
Your staff should have a comprehensive knowledge of how to use all of the gym equipment safely and effectively. This training will help them advise members on how to use the equipment correctly and stop any harmful actions as it happens, helping to prevent possible injury.
When it comes to incidents, CCTV can be beneficial. If the incident is recorded and footage saved, you can then refer back to it at a later date. This may help to prove that you did everything to prevent the accident or even pinpoint an area than you need to improve on.
CCTV is handy but so is knowing exactly where your members are and who is in the building. If there were a fire or similar problem, you would need to know this information quickly to save lives. Most modern gyms have a type of card system which allows members to swipe in and out of the facility. Have a policy of requiring members to be photographed when they first arrive, allowing you to identify them quickly when they visit.
5. Qualifications and Insurance
Ensure that any personal trainers you either hire or work from your gym hold the right credentials and are fully qualified. Your trainers will be advising and directing clients so need to be fully trained to do this safely and effectively. Whether you hire an already qualified personal trainer, use a self-employed trainer, or provide training, make sure an official body recognizes them. Some of the top personal trainer certification programs include:
- American Council on Exercise (ACE)
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Self-employed PTs in your gym will also need to have their own insurance which fully covers them for any potential accidents and injuries. Even though trainers will need to have their own insurance, you still need to put measures and processes in place that protect clients and guests. If an accident occurred due to faulty gym equipment during a PT session, the business owner would still be liable.
As well as making sure your PTs are covered, you also need to have the right insurance in place for your gym. Due to people performing strenuous tasks, a gym naturally presents a higher risk of accidents. There are several exclusions and risk categories when it comes to gym insurance. The cost to insure a gym can vary massively depending on the size of the gym and how comprehensive the cover is.
6. Good Form and Technique
This part is heavily influenced by your staff and your onboarding program. An easy way to hurt yourself is by performing an exercise wrong or using gym equipment incorrectly. If you don’t lift weights with the right form, you could hurt your back. How you exercise is critical for not only seeing results but for avoiding injury. By training staff in good form, technique and how to use all the equipment properly they can then advise gym members.
If you have a bad posture and incorrect form on the treadmill, eventually you can overuse the wrong body parts, resulting in injury. As part of your onboarding program, new members should be instructed on how to use equipment as well as the technique they need to use for it. If your gym focuses a lot on weight training, you should spend time with each new member to make sure they fully understand how to use weights safely to prevent injury. If you notice that members are struggling to nail the right form, then it would be great to recommend personal training services.
Check out these podcasts that every gym owner should listen to:
- 20 minutes or less – each episode brings you the latest news in the health and fitness world in 20 minutes or less.
- The School of Greatness – host former pro athlete Lewis Howes inspires and teaches entrepreneurs how to build profitable businesses.
- The Gym Owners Fitness Business Podcast – learn from thought leaders and experts in the industry on how to grow your business.
7. Keep it Clean
It may sound like an obvious one but you need to implement a proper cleaning regime. In a survey of 2,000 gym goers compiled by Nuffield Health, they found that almost half of people admitted to secretly using a towel, toiletry or drink that wasn’t theirs. A further 74% of people said they saw another member commit a crime against hygiene like not wiping down the equipment after use or leaving a dirty item of clothing behind.
Your members head to your gym to sweat it out so you need to make sure everything is kept clean. With areas like changing rooms, showers and gym equipment in general, cleaning is part of the daily routine. Your members don’t expect the changing rooms to be dirty or to be sliding around on sweaty gym equipment. A clean and hygienic environment is a must. Spillages and dirt could not only result in a potential injury but you might lose some members.
During your onboarding program and throughout your interactions with members, be sure to reiterate your gym’s hygiene policy. Members should fully understand what’s expected of them in terms of hygiene. This may mean bringing a towel to wipe down equipment or letting a staff member know of any spillages so that they can be taken care of immediately.
Inductions and onboarding programs are a great way to let members know the basics and how to use equipment safely. But, you shouldn’t just stop there. Users can easily forget some of the information you told them or move onto using bigger equipment and need a refresher. It’s important to have staff on hand. They can keep on eye on the gym floor and step in when needed.
For certain exercises, it’s advised that members have a spotter. This may be a staff member or another gym member. Reducing the risk of injury is essential and by ensuring there’s supervision on the gym floor, you can help to prevent any incidents.
Gyms can help to improve people’s health, fitness, and overall wellbeing. However, it’s essential to take the health and safety of your members, guests, and staff seriously and put the right measures and procedures in place. Help your users get the most out of their experience in a safe and effective manner.