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On-site fitness centers can be a powerful way to improve productivity, reduce time away from work, promote wellness and recruit top talent; however, they also present a serious liability exposure. Take steps to reduce your liability for employee injuries beyond a simple waiver, which may not hold in court depending on the state of litigation and whether the company is found to have staffed the facility with untrained workers or furnished it with poor equipment. Designing the fitness center to be safe for those who use it and transferring risk with an appropriate insurance package are important parts of risk management for your on-site fitness center.
A common misconception is that a liability waiver prevents lawsuits. In reality, it doesn’t, and the enforceability of the waiver in court depends largely on its specific wording and the particular legal requirements of the state. The waiver is meaningless without proper wording and compliance with applicable state law. Although waivers do lessen liability under certain circumstances—and are an integral part of a fitness center risk management program—it is important to review a waiver with legal counsel to ensure its effectiveness and compliance with state laws.
If you choose not to staff the on-site fitness center, users are more at risk of injury. If practicable, conduct live orientation sessions to demonstrate proper techniques while informing employees about policies and procedures for using the facility. If not, inform employees clearly of policies and procedures before they begin use and post clear illustrations and signs instructing them on proper use.
Maintaining the Fitness Center
The best way to deal with injuries is to prevent them. Injuries cannot be avoided entirely, but they can be minimized:
- Follow the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines.
- Ensure that all employees undergo a health screening before beginning use of the fitness center.
- Avoid installing high-risk equipment, such as free weights.
- Keep ample space between fast-moving equipment, such as treadmills, and other objects.
- Maintain equipment according to manufacturer’s instructions, and keep a thorough maintenance log.
It is also important to consider disabled or overweight employees. Leaving disabled workers out or creating a perceived discrimination against obese workers by providing a fitness center could lead to discrimination claims. Explore this possibility and account for it in your internal communication efforts.
The insurance professionals at The Safegard Group, Inc. can help you develop an appropriate liability insurance package for your on-site fitness center. Review your policy carefully each year, and be sure to inform us about changes in the way you run the fitness center so we can make sure your coverage and risk management programs are up to date.