Archive for the ‘Health Clubs’ Category

Waiver Saves Fitness Center in PA

Divided court highlights potential waiver pitfalls

Melinda Hinkal found out the hard way that it’s important to read before signing that liability waiver. She, like everyone else who applied to join the gym, was required to sign a waiver before she could begin working out in the facility. After joining, Hinkal claimed that too much weight on the equipment she was using caused a neck injury. It was her contention that the trainer advised her to continue working out even after she complained of pain.

The PA State Superior Court decision ruled she could not sue the gym because the signed waiver stipulates that gym members “assume all risks of personal injury.” However, not all the judges agreed with the ruling. A dissenting judge argued that the waiver agreement “contravenes public policy,” which is intended to protect consumers. The dissenting judge also noted that the waiver didn’t clearly stipulate that personal training sessions were covered.

Would your waiver hold up in court?

This case shows that the outcome of any given case clearly depends on the judge’s interpretation. This case also provides a clear example of some of the points I bring up in “Are Waivers/Releases Worth the Paper on Which They’re Written?” Chief among those points is that courts are more likely to rule in favor of a waiver that was custom written for specific activities and that aims to meet the requirements of your state’s laws.

So, what is a well-written waiver/release? Quite simply, nearly every phrase in every sentence must be written to avoid the pitfalls that resulted in actual rulings against waivers. The above-mentioned article lists 10 common waver risks to avoid.

Waivers and risk management

Given the dissenting opinion and the pitfalls mentioned above, it’s logical to assume that a different panel of judges might have ruled in Hinkal’s favor. So, don’t assume you’ll beat the odds if your waiver comes under scrutiny.

We have many other risk management articles pertinent to health clubs and fitness trainers. And we offer best-in-industry fitness instructor insurance and fitness center insurance at up to 38% savings.


Source: Matt Miller. “Woman signed away her right to sue over injury at Gold’s Gym, divided Pa. court rules,” pennlive.com. 29 Jan. 2016.

Death in Fitness Club Steamroom

Posted | Filed under Health Clubs

Ignored safety protocol ends in tragedy.

Businesses train their employees on opening and closing routines such as turning alarms on and off to closing out cash registers. There are security and safety reasons for these protocols. The death of a 24 Hour Fitness member is a tragic illustration of why it’s imperative that such routines be followed.

The body of a 77-year-old woman was found in a Colorado 24 Hour Fitness steam room by two members at 7:45 a.m. Apparently, the woman passed out in the steam room, which she accessed some time after 1 p.m. the previous afternoon. She died of renal failure resulting from dehydration, according to the coroner’s report.

24 Hour Fitness has a policy that employees are to conduct “team cleans” of the club every hour. And it’s obvious that the closing employee failed to checking that everyone had left the building before closing for the night.

Unfortunately, a similar incident occurred at another 24 Hour Fitness club in California in 2014. The body of a 60-year-old man was discovered in the sauna by the cleaning crew an hour after the club’s midnight closing.

It’s important to note that such tragedies could happen at any fitness club. It’s easy for employees begin to think of the daily and hourly walk-throughs as mundane and unnecessary when no incidents take place over the course of days, weeks and months. Fitness club owners and managers need to continually stress the importance of being alert and following the safety protocols that are in place. These two deaths can serve as examples why the policies are in place.

And to make matters worse, a wrongful death lawsuit could be filed by the victim’s family, which could financially ruin the club, the club owner and the employees involved.

We offer other helpful risk management articles on our blog for fitness clubs and fitness trainers.


Source: Pamela Kufahl, “Woman’s Undiscovered Death in Steam Room,” clubindustry.com. 14 July, 2015.

 

 

Arguing Treadmill Safety Standards

Posted | Filed under Health Clubs

And liability releases come into play

A gross negligence lawsuit filed by a member of 24 Hour Fitness is all about the safety standards for treadmills… or the lack thereof.

The plaintiff claims she suffered a severe head injury after falling backwards off a treadmill and hitting another piece of steel equipment. The exercise machine she hit her head on was placed approximately 46 inches from the rear of the treadmill.

24 Hour Fitness argues that the plaintiff signed a liability release and that there is no treadmill safety zone industry standard. However, the plaintiff’s attorneys are countering by citing a section of the treadmill manufacturer’s owner’s manual and safety guidelines, as well as an expert’s statement that the plaintiff was put at risk by the distance between the treadmill and other piece of equipment.

According to ASTM International Standard F2115-05 there should be a clear distance of 20 inches on either side of the treadmill and 39 inches behind the treadmill.

“This standard, while not widely known by club operators, is very well known by the equipment manufacturers and has been effectively used in court cases,” said Steve Tharrett, president of Club Industry Consulting.

The plaintiff  is claiming that her signature on the liability release was fraudulently obtained.

On the day she signed the membership agreement she could neither speak nor read English, according to the suit.  The manager, who could not speak Spanish, showed her the membership fee on the computer screen and made exercise motions, which the plaintiff understood was the price for use of the facility. Since she could only read the numbers in the price, the plaintiff was not aware of the liability release provision included in the membership agreement when she signed.

We offer more articles on fitness center and treadmill safety and encourage you to read “Are Waiver/Releases Worth the Paper They are Written On?”

Source: Eric Stemgren, “Judgment Overturned in 24 Hour Fitness Treadmill Lawsuit,” clubindustry.com, 12 June, 2015.

Treadmills Account for Most Equipment-related Health Club Injuries

And most are preventable

The treadmill is the riskiest of all workout machines because it has a motor that propels it, unlike ellipticals and stationary bicycles. However, most injuries are minor and deaths, as in the David Goldberg case, are rare.

There were an average of three treadmill-related deaths per year reported between 2003 and 2013, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There were 24,400 treadmill-related injuries requiring emergency room visits reported in 2014.  There were 62,700 injuries related to exercise equipment, which includes weights, trampolines, swimming pools, and golf clubs. Treadmills account for the largest number of injuries in that category.

Treadmill injuriesEmergency room doctors report that the majority of injuries from sports equipment are associated with overuse, such as an injured tendon from a long run on a treadmill.

Treadmill accidents tend to occur more frequently among older and inexperienced users. Getting instructions on use of the machine is key in avoiding treadmill accidents and consulting with a physician before embarking on treadmill activity is highly recommended for seniors.

Unknown heart problems can surface with exercise, which can cause people to die suddenly while exercising. These types of hidden heart problems can be caused by a genetic abnormality or chronic coronary disease that cannot withstand strenuous exercise. Heart problems account for about 80 percent of sudden deaths in which people collapse and are unable to be resuscitated.

For more information see “Injuries at Gyms and Home.”

Source: Sabrina Tavernise, “Treadmill May Be Riskiest Machine,” nytimes.com, 05 May, 2015.

Injury Claims Unique to Health Clubs

What they are and how to reduce risk of occurrences

You work too hard at running your health club to risk it all. But it could easily happen if a client were to sue over something you simply overlooked. Health club General Liability claims typically arise out of the condition of the premises and equipment. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the facility should be performed, and clients always properly instructed on use of the equipment. The three most common claims unique to health clubs and fitness centers are:

  • Falls while stepping on or off of a moving treadmill. which is usually a user error . However, a liability claim can be filed if the injured person did not receive proper instruction on use of the treadmill.
  • Health club risk managementSlips/falls in wet areas. These claims usually occur in locker rooms and sauna, Jacuzzi and pool areas. Such falls are best prevented with non-slip mats and warning signage.
  • Slips/falls in exercise classes. Participants in group exercise classes slip or fall off step platforms and floors that become wet with perspiration and/or condensation from water bottles.

General Liability Risk Management

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of injuries and claims being made against your facility.

Equipment Maintenance

  • Document and retain maintenance and repairs
  • Equipment safety signage should never be removed
  • Cardio and strength equipment should be checked daily
  • Power cords should be taped down to prevent trips and falls

Wet Areas

  • Non-slip floor mats and safety grab bars should be securely installed at showers/saunas/Jacuzzi exits
  • Signs warning “CAUTION: WET AREA” should be permanently displayed.
  • Members should be encouraged to wear non-slip footwear in wet areas

Group Exercise Area

The condition of group exercise equipment and floors should be checked daily, particularly worn step treads and worn, wet or damaged sections of the floor

Professional Liability Risk Management

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk injury claims being made against your facility resulting from something a staff member or independent contractor does or says (or fails to do or say).

Waiver/Release Forms

  • Have all clients, members and guests sign a waiver or release before using any part the facility. Members and clients should sign a new waiver/release upon renewal each year.
  • Waivers should state that “instruction on all equipment and facilities has been provided and/or offered” to the individual.

Instruction

  • Fitness staff should physically demonstrate all equipment for new members and guests.
  • Renewing members should be offered refresher instruction and instructed on use of any newly purchased equipment.

Staff

  • Staff should all be trained in the proper use of all equipment upon hire and receive training on newly purchased equipment.
  • Fitness staff should be made aware of the policy they are expected provide proper equipment instruction to members and guests.
  • Staff should not exceed their qualifications for fitness and/or health training . Only staff with proper nutritional or medical certifications should offer recommendations in these areas.
  • Independent contractors should offer proof of individual professional liability coverage before working in the facility.

Emergency Procedures

  • All employees should receive a copy and acknowledge by signature receipt of the facility’s emergency procedures plan. This plans should include what steps to take in the event of injury, illness, fire, power outage, severe weather, etc.
  • The emergency plan should be reviewed with staff regularly during the year.
  • Staff who work on the fitness floor should be CPR and first aid certified. At least one CPR and first aid trained staff member should be on the floor at all times.
  • If the facility has an automatic external defibrillator (AED), at least one staff member with AED training should be on site at all times.

If you have questions regarding risk factors, please call us at (800) 622-7370, and you can visit our Health Club Insurance page to find a plan that suits your specific needs. We specialize in these areas:

Circuit Training

Day Spas

Exercise Studios

Fitness Clubs

Health Clubs

Pilates Studios

Yoga Studios

 

Top 4 Legal Issues Health Clubs Face

Posted | Filed under Health Clubs

Maintaining industry compliance is the key to avoiding liability   

Your health club is thriving with new and renewing members; business couldn’t be better. Now isn’t the time to be complacent about compliance to industry standards and regulations. Failure to meet compliance leaves you and your facility exposed to liability.

The four areas that pose the most potential for risk are emergency procedures, staff certification, protective documentation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Take the time to learn what steps you can take to avoid liability and ensure your facility is compliant in these areas.

  1. Emergency Procedures

Accidents, pre-existing health issues, and other factors can be the cause of an emergency situation in any health club. It’s your responsibility to have an emergency plan Fitness clubin place and ensure your staff is familiar with it. There are legal issues involved when administering emergency care. Knowing the risks is the first step in protecting you, your staff and your health club from liability.

“Good Samaritan” legislation offers some level of immunity from liability, but is limited to negligence. It doesn’t protect against reckless or grossly negligent conduct. Two requirements must be met in order to enjoy Good Samaritan immunity:

  • Aid must be given at the scene of the emergency.
  • Rendering aid in good faith, which means that assisting the victim was the intention of those offering emergency care. Immunity can be denied if there is evidence that the motive was monetary reward or attention in the press.

Good Samaritan laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to familiarize yourself and your staff with the legislation in your area.

Use of Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

health club insuranceCertain businesses are required to house AEDs. A few examples of these are schools, airports, medical facilities and public swimming pools.  Legislation varies from state to state on which businesses are mandated to house AEDs. However, housing of these devices is encouraged by the American College of Sports Medicine  and the American Heart Association for health clubs that have more than 2,500 members, provide programs for high-risk clients, and/or are in a location where emergency response time is typically more than five minutes.

If your club decides to house an AED, be advised that mandatory legal duties will arise. Please see our article “Use of Defibrillators in Fitness Clubs” which includes an infographic with helpful tips for maintaining and training staff on the use of AEDs.

  1.      Staff Certification

It’s your responsibility to confirm that your staff members are current with their fitness certifications. Lapsed staff certifications leave you and your facility vulnerable to allegations of misrepresentation. Many clubs post lists of their staff members and qualifications. Lapses in any certification can be construed as misleading.

Steps you can take to prevent lawsuits:

  • Develop a system for tracking expiration dates of all employee and independent contractor certifications
  • Remind staff periodically to renew certifications, either in staff meetings, written memos or email.
  • Increase staff awareness of potential legal consequences of non-compliance awareness.
  • Offer staff incentives for keeping certifications current, and penalize employees or independent contractors who collected fees during any period of lapsed certification.

3. Protective Documents

Waivers / releases are intended to protect health clubs and their owners and staff against claims of regular or ordinary negligence. They don’t, however protect against grossly negligent or reckless conduct. All members should sign a separate waiver / release agreement for the protection of your facility and its staff.

For more information on waivers and releases, please see our article, “Are Waiver Release Agreement Worth the Paper They are Written On?” We also sample waiver forms in our risk management library.

4. The Americans with Disabilities Act

A primary goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act goal is to make sure that businesses do all that they “reasonably” can for people using their facilities who have disabilities.  Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment that enables a disabled person to participate in the daily operations of the facility.

Such accommodations can be as simple as offering extra assistance for disabled members, such as assistance in transferring from a wheelchair to seated equipment or posting large print signs for the visually impaired. ADA does not require fitness facilities to fundamentally alter operating procedures that could risk the safety of others.

Our risk management library is full of information that can help you minimize risks to your business. Call us at (800) 622-7370 if you have questions about risk management or want to receive an insurance policy quote based on your unique needs.

 

Source: Sean Riley, “Risk Management: Is Your Club Compliant or Complacent?” ideafit.com.

 

 

Injuries at Gyms and Homes

Thousands suffer in pursuit of fitness

Fitness Instructor Insurance and Health Club Insurance is in high demand due to frequent gym injuries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the following injury statistics occurred in 2009:

  • 1500 emergency room visits resulting from equipment related
    mishaps in gyms
  • 50,000 emergency room visits from home exercise equipment incidents including treadmill falls, exercise ball falls, elastic stretch band hits to face, and dropping free weights on feet.
  • Treadmills are the number one cause of equipment related injuries with 575 occurrences of falling off and tripping
  • Weight machines and free weights caused 224 injuries.
  • Common gym equipment related injuries include broken ankles,fractured arms, fractured legs, and fingertip amputations.

Fitness instructors cite the following reason for gym/exercise related injuries:

  • Inattention due to Ipods, cell phones, and reading
  • Using equipment for the first time without proper instruction
  • Working out too hard, too soon after a period of inactivity.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35127528/ns/health-fitness/

Fitness trainer settles wrongful termination lawsuit

Why fitness centers need Employment Practices Liability insurance

A fitness trainer settled his claim that he was wrongfully terminated by his employer, Best Fitness for $32,500. Salvatore Rachuna alleged he was fired because of complaints he made about a manager who repeatedly made inappropriate and lewd remarks in the presence of Best Fitness customers.

Wrongful TerminationRachuna was hired by Best Fitness in 2008 and worked in various positions in their Tonawanda, N.Y., and Erie, Penn., locations. In 2012 he began working under a new manager. His lawsuit claims that his supervisor repeatedly made “sexually advancing” comments regarding Best Fitness members and employees, both male and female. Rachuna’s complaint states the manager regularly discussed male genitalia size and the sexual activity of others and told sexual jokes about underage females.

Management’s response

Rachuna complained to the corporate vice president of personal training, who just happened to be the manager’s wife. He reported that he was uncomfortable and the behavior disruptive to the workplace. The only action she took was to tell Rachuna to “push back” anytime the manager, her husband, conducted himself inappropriately. The manager’s inappropriate behavior continued, so Rachuna made a formal complaint to the Best Fitness chief executive and human resources director in August, 2012. According to Rachnuna, his termination on Sept. 9, 2012 was a retaliatory action against his repeated complaints.

This case was one of two discrimination cases against Best Fitness arising from alleged actions of the Best Fitness manager. A separate complaint filed by a former group fitness director is pending. None of the complaints named the manager as a defendant.

What management can do

Defending against such claims can be costly. Employment practices lawsuits of this nature highlight the need for fitness centers to purchase Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), which can be purchased on a stand-alone basis or as part of a Directors & Officers Liability policy. EPLI policies generally cover the big three: discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination/discipline, plus a host of other employment related offenses.

If you are interested in a quote for this coverage, contact Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance or any other aspect of Fitness Traininer insurance. We will provide a simple form to complete that will allow us to provide you with a quick quote.

 

Source: Lisa Thompson, “Erie fitness center settles lawsuit,” Erie Times-News. 17 Aug, 2014.

 

 

Risks that Could Put Your Fitness Center Out of Business (Infographic)

Taking care of the not-so-obvious

Running a fitness center is no small feat due to the constant management of contract employees, members, front desk agents, maintenance staff and the like. Collecting member dues and keeping your numbers up is probably one of your greatest concerns, but you also have major risks that you need to manage in order to survive.

Fitness Center

Want to display this Infographic on your own site? Just copy and paste the code below into your blog post or web page:

The 5 Hidden Risks

Disaster-related loss
Studies have shown that nearly 60% of businesses are underinsured, leaving them vulnerable to significant losses in the face of natural disasters. Protect your fitness club by investing in adequate health club insurance coverage and having a set recovery plan in place to minimize your risk for total loss.

Emergency losses
Accidents happen every day – explosions, violent acts, outbreaks of disease such as Legionella. These incidents can significantly impact both your finances and your reputation.  Speak with your insurance agent and make sure that your business is adequately covered for catastrophic liability and property losses.

Cyber-security breach
You store a lot of member data on your computer system: birthdays, home addresses, and even credit card numbers are kept on file. Did you know that nearly half of all businesses have experienced a data breach? However, only one in 10 of those businesses are covered for cyber liability.  A Cyber Risk policy should protect your fitness center from client data breaches in the event that negligence on the part of your company is determined to be the cause of breach.

Personal trainer liability
If your fitness facility employs personal trainers, you may be liable for their negligent behavior, even if they’re only contract employees. Sexual harassment, physical injury, even poor dietary advice can result in a lawsuit against your company. It is safest to require your contract trainers to carry their own General Liability/Professional Liability policies.  However, some fitness facilities choose to add coverage for contract trainers under their fitness facility policy.

Treadmill Injuries
You see them all the time. One of your clients will be running on a treadmill, nose in a book, texting, or bobbing along to their iPod. Such multitasking often leads to injuries for which you are likely to be liable. The average cost of any treadmill-related incident is $250,000.

Protecting your fitness facility from injury claims

Did you know that Fitness Center Insurance is critical for all health clubs and gyms? It only takes one injury-related lawsuit to financially ruin you and or your business. Having the right insurance protection offers you peace of mind.

Getting the right insurance coverage does not have to be complicated if you work with an agency like SADLER. The insurance experts at SADLER understand your needs and the unique risks associated with your fitness facility. If you would like to learn more about liability prevention or are ready to get a customized insurance quote, simply apply online now or call 800-622-7370.

There are absolutely no obligation or commitments, and your quote will be sent in just a few hours in most cases. With no application fees and the most competitive rates in the industry, you’ve got nothing to lose!

 

Source – Hidden Risks Faced by Fitness Centers

 

Safety in the Gym

Risk management from top to bottom

Occasional injuries in a gymnasium or sports facility are to be expected, but they’re usually due to the inherent risk of sports participation. However, no one should ever expect an equipment-related injury.

Safety in the gymIn-depth equipment inspections should be conducted annually, and visual spot checks every month. Documentation of these inspections is an integral part risk management and can be the key to combatting allegations of negligence or noncompliance in the event of an injury claim. (I’ll add internal link here to our blog post about the popped exercise ball after it posts)

Don’t assume staff is knowledgeable enough to conduct these inspections. If necessary, hire a professional inspection service. Such services usually don’t perform repairs, but can refer you to a company that does. If performing your own in-house inspections, there are areas that can be easily overlooked.

Looking up

As every grocery store manager knows, people focus on what’s at eye level. Sports facilities often have wall-mounted and/or ceiling-mounted systems, such as basketball nets, storage systems, and lighting. Make it a priority to look up for frayed cables or broken pulleys and mounts. Staff, players and fans are susceptible to serious injuries from stretched cables, loose attachments, or improperly stored equipment.

“If you see something that might be a problem, you need to investigate.” – Nick Cusick, Bison Inc.

Are problems afoot?

The gym floor houses equipment that can poses risks as well. Volleyball nets and soccer goals should be inspected for proper anchoring. Unsecured equipment can fall on players or cause players to trip. Safety wall padding should be checked regularly to ensure none is loose and still in good shape, not torn or worn thin.

Proper and sufficient signage can’t be stressed enough. Not only does it draw attention to safety issues and rules, but is a significant part of any risk management program. In other words, signs protect the public from safety hazards and the gym owner/operator. from potential lawsuits

If you have questions or concerns about safety issues, contact Sadler Sports and Recreation Insurance at (800) 622-7370. And don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook!

Source: Emily Attwood, “Inspections, Monitoring Key to Optimal Gym Operation,“ Athletic Business. March, 2014.