Maintaining Fitness Center Equipment

An ounce of prevention could be worth hundreds of thousands

Did you hear the one about the fellow lifting weights while using a large exercise ball to support his back? As he was pumping two 40-lb. dumbbells in this position, the exercise ball seam suddenly split, deflating the ball and sending the man crashing to the floor. He suffered injuries to his wrists and back, which were treated, but he sued the fitness club and the manufacturer and distributor of the exercise ball for more than $5 million. Turns out he was an aspiring golfer hoping to join the PGA. He claimed the injuries derailed his career and potential prize winnings and product endorsement earnings.

Not just another frivolous lawsuit

The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the club neglected “to conduct timely and adequate inspections of equipment for defects and potential hazards such as damage or excessive wear.” His claims were based on the ball manufacturer’s instructions indicating the product had a one-year life expectancy and should be checked “for wear “before each use.

After spending 2.5 years in court and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, a settlement was reached when the the fitness center was unable to document the date exercise ball was first put in use or provide an inspection record.

Preventing easily avoidable accidents

The manufacturers of each piece of equipment from treadmills to yoga mats comes with life expectancy and maintenance guidelines. To minimize the risk of Exercise ballan explosive situation like the one above, pay attention to, follow, and document compliance with the equipment manufacturer’s recommendations.

Replacing a piece of equipment is much cheaper, and safer, than the alternative.

A fitness center monthly equipment maintenance check should include, but is not limited to:

  • TV entertainment equipment and mounts .
  • Calibration and cleaning of cardio equipment per manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Inspection of treadmill belts and decks for wear.  Lubricate as needed.
  • Removal of treadmill motor shrouds for internal vacuuming.
  • Inspection of elliptical mechanical parts for wear. Lubricate as needed.
  • Inspect/lubricate bike chains, cranks, pedals and straps and replace as required.
  • Inspection of all strength training equipment, including but not limited to: adjusting cables, belts, pulley alignment, tightening bolts and adjusting range of motion cams.
  • Inspection of exercise class equipment, i.e. balls, steps, bands, weights, etc.

Source: Jeffrey Long.    To Avoid Lawsuits, Health Clubs Must Heed Equipment Life Expectancy,” Athletic Business. Sept. 2013