Don’t Be A Space Cadet With Your Club’s Treadmills


Treadmills are still one of the major causes of liability claims in the health club industry.

And though we do live in what could be called “the space age” with all of our technical space-age gadgets and savvy, some club owners simply space out when it comes to protecting themselves against liability claims that come as a result of treadmill mishaps.

When I was a kid I loved watching the Jetsons cartoon show. I’ll never forget the one where George Jetson takes his dog, Astro for a walk. The Jetsons really lived in the Space Age. In fact, they didn’t even have streets and parks where they could walk the dogs. George had to walk Astro on a treadmill on his terrace.

While George is walking the dog, a cat jumps on the treadmill in front of Astro and the chase is on. The speed of the treadmill escalates to the point that George can no longer keep up the pace and he falls on the belt. Unlike in real life, George is not catapulted off the back of the treadmill like your members would be, nor is he hurt. That’s what can happen in cartoons. Instead for the sake of a good laugh, the cartoonist has George remaining on the belt as it spins around while he tries in vain to regain his balance. It was a funny cartoon, but in real life when someone falls on a treadmill in a health club it can spell lawsuit.

Remember, Treadmill Injuries are Rarely Due to Machine Malfunction

Typically, the leading cause of treadmill accidents is member malfunction. Maintaining balance while walking, jogging, or running on a treadmill is tricky enough, but when you add in the fact that members juggle their attention between water bottles, audio headsets, television remote controls and magazines staying upright requires real skill and losing one’s balance happens.

Regardless of the cause, plaintiff attorneys are highly skilled at placing the liability on the club owner and away from their client. Even if the injury is clearly the result of the member “losing it” the plaintiff attorney simply states in their complaint that the member was not given proper orientation on the use of these deadly devices.

The good news is you can do a few simple things that will help transfer the liability and accountability back to where it belongs…on the member.

  • Have your club logo painted on the treadmill running belt

Several treadmill accidents have happened when a mindless member finishes their workout or walks away in the middle of their program to get a drink of water and they leave the treadmill running. Another member may come to the machine and step on without realizing the machine is already running. If you have 20 treadmills and 19 of them are running, I guarantee you won’t be able to tell if the one open treadmill is on or off. If the belt has your logo on it, the member can clearly tell that the machine is running. It also looks really neat to have your logo on the treadmill.

  • Make sure that when you have your Digital Video Surveillance System installed that you have at least one camera, preferably two from different angles covering the treadmills.

  • Be sure to follow the maintenance guidelines and manufacturer recommendations and keep accurate records of all maintenance and repairs.

With these records, you can help build a case that can help remove or reduce your degree of negligence from the cause of the injury.

  • Show members how to use treadmill during club orientation.

Whether or not all of your members accept your orientation, it is extremely important that you at least OFFER to orient every member on the use of all equipment. In addition, including a simple statement in your new member packet that saying, “If, at any time, you are unfamiliar with the use of any of our equipment, please do not hesitate to ask a staff member for assistance.” It would also help to post this statement in each workout area of your gym.

  • Finally, make sure you have a minimum “landing area” behind the treadmill of at least three feet.

You might want to throw in a few big fat soft pillows too! If you keep your head out of space and your feet on the ground, you’ll minimize your liability when it comes to your treadmills.