Posts Tagged ‘health club insurance’

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

AEDs

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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

A Cost of Health Club Injuries

Prompt reporting of injuries can reduce legal fees

Kim Marshall was injured while working out on a treadmill at Bally’s in Tacoma, Washington. As a result of her injuries, Marshall filed suit against Bally’s Pacwest, Life Fitness, the company that manufactured and owned the treadmill, and Washington Athletic Repair, the company that installed and maintained the treadmill. There were some discrepancies as to what actually caused Marshall to be ejected from the treadmill, and it was this discrepancy that led to the dismissal of her suit.

The following facts where established in Marshall’s original deposition: She set the treadmill at 2.5 miles per hour for fifteen minutes. The treadmill abruptly stopped at thirteen minutes. Ms. Marshall reset the machine, but it restarted at 6.2 miles per hour instead of the slower pace she had initially programmed. This sudden start threw her backward, causing her to strike her head against a plexiglass wall. The blow to the head resulted in a brain injury.

However, when questioned at trial, Ms. Marshall said she could not remember anything after resetting the machine. She could not recall the speed the machine restarted at or even if she was thrown backward into the plexiglass wall or to the side against something else. Her attorney stated that she had a two-week memory lapse following the brain injury.

The trial court concluded that once she testified in court that she could not remember what actually happened after she reset the treadmill, she could not point back to her deposition and assert that previous testimony as fact. And because she could not tell the court what the machine did when she reset it, she had no proof that the machine malfunctioned at all. The court reasoned it was just as likely that she tripped, fainted, or fell after resetting the machine because there is no other evidence to establish what happened.

Marshall attempted to win on another legal theory called spoliation, which is the intentional destruction of evidence. This theory is based on the assumption that, when one party intentionally destroys evidence relevant to a case, that evidence must have been unfavorable to them. In this case, Marshall’s injuries occurred in May 1993, and her attorney did not ask to examine the treadmill until September 1997. After Marshall’s injury, the treadmill remained in use at Bally’s. In November 1993, Washington Athletic replaced the CPU in all Life Stride 9500 treadmills, including the one at issue. Marshall’s attorney had not requested that the CPU be preserved. That same treadmill remained operational until April 1997, when its frame broke. At this time, the machine was returned to Life Express for replacement. The court concluded that, because Marshall’s attorney did not request to inspect the machine until four years after the incident, Bally’s could not be held accountable for having destroyed evidence.

Finally, the court also took into account the waiver clause in Ms. Marshall’s Membership contract with Bally’s. The clause stated, in part, that

“the club member is “voluntarily participating in these activities and assume(s) all risks of injury… that might result” and that the member agrees “to waive any claims or rights (the member) might otherwise have to sue (Bally’s) a factor, the court took into consideration when dismissing Marshall’s claim the fact that she could not prove that her injury resulted from any malfunctioning of the treadmill she was using. “–   Marshall V. Ball’s Pac West, Inc., 972 P.2d 475, (Wash.1999).

In My Opinion

Proper accident and injury reporting can go a long way in documenting proper practice and enhance the ability to succeed in litigation.  In the above case, if witnesses observed that the plaintiff tripped and wasn’t thrust from the treadmill as she stated, the claim could have immediately been dismissed, thus avoiding expensive legal defense fees.  Prompt accident investigation procedures including written witness statements are important.

Article Compliments of From the Gym to the Jury, Volume 1, Number 1.