If you are the owner or manager of a health club or gym, I hope your daily mantra is something along the lines of “Education! Documentation! Education! Documentation!” Keeping those two concepts in the forefront of your mind and keeping your staff practicing them, will keep you and your club in a position of strength and less likely to experience a liability insurance claim.
Education is relatively self-explanatory. The more you and your staff learn about safety, the better. With just a little bit of effort, you can create an atmosphere that promotes a safe workout environment and improves customer service.
Documentation is a combination of maintaining proper records and establishing specific protocols for reporting incidents. One of the most important documents that warrant specific attention is the member “waiver”.
A properly written waiver has two major components. The first part gives the member the “heads up” on the potential risk of injury and/or death. The second part states that since the member knows that exercise and the use of the club is potentially hazardous, they agree that they won’t sue you when they get hurt.
However, for the waiver to be enforceable, many jurisdictions want to see the waiver on its own stand-alone form or at least having a separate signature line on a membership contact. Burying your waiver in seven-point type font on the back on a membership agreement will not hold up.
The basic rule of thumb is to document EVERYTHING. When someone slips & falls, gets thrown off the back of a treadmill, or twists their ankle in a group class document it. Even if the member says that they are “O.K.”, document it anyway and get witness reports if possible. Since most jurisdictions allow that member to sue two or even three years after the date of injury, it is vitally important to gather as much data as possible on the date the injury occurs.
With education and documentation as your guiding principles, your club will be fun, safe and suit-proof!