Posts Tagged ‘fitness center insurance’

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,” 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,” 14 July, 2015.



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

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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


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

Defibrillator Failure: Fitness Center Liability

The importance of understanding and complying with AED laws

Defibrillator Maintenance of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and proper use are key to an effective emergency plan. A recent complaint filed in New York illustrates why health club owners must weigh the pros and cons of housing AEDS.*

The lawsuit was brought by a widow of a club member who died of cardiac arrest during a workout. Apparently, employees attempted to use both of the AEDs on the premises, only to discover a dead battery in one and none in the other, resulting in an unsuccessful revival attempt.

A laundry list of defendants and claims

Defendants in the case include the health club owner, Zee Medical, the seller of one AED, Hewlett Packard, Agilent Technologies, Philips Healthcare, and manufacturers and distributors of the second AED. The allegations include:

  • Failure to house functioning AEDs, as legally required in New York
  • Failure to properly maintain and test the AEDs
  • Failure to have in place proper equipment maintenance and testing procedures
  • Failure to properly train staff members in the use, maintenance, and testing of AEDs.

Allegations in the suit state that Zee sold the AED to the health club without a a battery and failed to provide a representative to install a battery and prepare the AED for proper use.  The complaint also alleges causes of action for product liability and breach of warranty.

Risk management is the key

It will be quite a while before this case goes to trial, and who’s to say a working AED would have saved this person’s life? The point is, failure of this type is easy to prevent, and a good AED representative can assist you in reducing risks by providing proper training on AED compliance.

*California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have laws requiring AEDs in health clubs.
Source: Richard Lazar. “Lawsuit Claims Two Non-Working Health Club AEDs Led to Member’s Sudden Cardiac Death,” Readiness Systems. 03 Mar. 2014.

Use of Defibrillators in Fitness Clubs (Infographic)

Looking at the legal issues

The use of automated external defibrillators (AED) in a health club can save lives, but their existence and use also carries some heavy responsibilities.  If your club maintains an AED either voluntarily or per state law requirements, you and your staff have specific mandatory legal responsibilities toward potential victims of on-site cardiac failure. Failure to comply can result in liability.


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Mandated Legal Responsibilities

While many businesses are mandated by law to include AEDs in their emergency plan, only California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have laws requiring them in health clubs.

However, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) highly encourage health clubs to maintain an AED and train their staff on  their proper use.

If your facility meets any of the following criteria, both the ACSM and the AHA recommend  AED placement and training:

More than 2,500 members

  • Classes or programs for high-risk populations
  • Access to emergency personnel or facility typically takes longer than 5 minutes

Managing the Risks

Facilities with defibrillators are required to provide staff training and certification in correct use and to keep them properly maintained, which includes regular inspection and testing. Training usually includes completion of a CPR course that meets American Red Cross or AHA standards. Any emergency plan that includes the use of AEDs requires review by a licensed medical doctor.

Negligence lawsuits can result from errors, but noncompliance with any state or federal regulations can also expose your health club to liability.

Good Samaritan laws provide some immunity from liability for emergency health service providers, but reckless or gross negligence isn’t included.

Protecting your fitness center from liability claims

Did you know that liability protection is critical for health clubs and fitness centers? It only takes one injury-related lawsuit to financially ruin your organization. Having the right insurance protection offers you peace of mind.

Finding the right insurance coverage doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. The SADLER insurance experts  understand your needs and the unique risks associated with your fitness facility.

If you would like to learn more about liability prevention or want to get a customized insurance quote, apply online now or telephone us 800-622-7370. It’s obligation free and most quotes can be sent in a few hours. There’s no application fee and we offer the most competitive rates in the industry, so what do have to lose?

Source: “Risk Management: Is Your Club Compliant or Complacent?” IDEA Health & Fitness Association

Critical Signage in a Fitness Center

Signs aren’t just for show

Signage in a fitness center serves several roles. Warning, policy / procedure, announcement and directional signs are all important to the safety of fitness center clients and protecting your business and staff from liability claims.


These signs serve as silent staff members, reminding clients of safety procedures and cautioning them of potential dangers. These can include warnings of wet floors in sauna/jacuzzi/pool/shower areas, improper use of equipment, and use of spotters in weight areas. Warning signs should be professionally printed and posted strategically where they can be seen clearly and at eye level, or no higher than 6’ from the ground.

Policies & Procedures

These range from general policies posted at the front desk to issues of sanitation and courtesy throughout the facility. Examples include minimum age requirements of clients, policies for use of the locker rooms and showers, and use of equipment. These signs should also be printed professionally and placed in close proximity to the relevant area(s) no higher than 4 to 6’ from the ground. Decals on mirrors and glass doors/windows are useful for attracting attention to certain policies or instructions.


Special events and classes take place in fitness centers on a regular basis. Signs alerting clients about the dates and details can be generated in-house by hand or computer and placed randomly, making sure they don’t interfere with or distract  from any safety or policy signs.


Signs denoting exits, ADA-facilities and equipment, emergency exit plans, location of safety equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, alarms, etc.) should be professionally generated and posted per building regulations.

Despite the best efforts of your staff, accidents and emergencies will occur.  Your facility should have written emergency procedures in the event an injury illness or an emergency such as fire,tornado, power outage.

  • Every staff member (including independent contractors and volunteers) should receive a copy of the emergency procedures and required to sign that they have read and understood them. These procedures should be reviewed regularly at least once a year.
  • Staff members who work on the fitness floor should have Red Cross training in first aid. At least one CPR-certified staff member should be on site at all times.
  • If there is AED equipment (defibrillator) on site, at least one staff member trained in the use of the AED should be on site at all times.

David L. Harlowe, Chapter 27: “Fitness Center Safety,” Risk Management In Sport, Third Edition, 2012.