Fitness Center Safety

July 11, 2019

Fitness centers are common guest amenities in the hospitality industry, offering a variety of risks and hazards for travelers and hotel operators. If unmanaged, these risks and hazards can result in guest injuries, exposing the facility to liability.

The daily flow of new and first-time users of hotel fitness centers disadvantages operators in terms of screening potential users. Nevertheless, the following steps will help owners/operators provide the safest possible exercise environment and limit potential liability.

Equipment Selection

Consider potential liability and user safeguarding when selecting and procuring workout equipment. Limit suppliers to manufacturers and dealers with established track records of solid performance, durability, and user safety. Equipment providers with years of experience are more likely to have invested in product testing and quality control. They are also more likely to have strong product liability insurance programs. Selecting commercial or light commercial products will help to ensure the equipment will withstand the demands of your hotel property. Consider the safety features of the equipment including protected weight stacks, placards explaining proper equipment use, and emergency stop mechanisms.

Layout

To ensure the safety of hotel guests, arrange equipment to provide adequate space to safely mount and dismount the apparatus. Consider the operating footprint of equipment for walkways as some equipment components may swing or pivot outside the neutral/inactive footprint. Allow adequate space to mitigate the potential for falls off the back of moving treadmills and resulting injuries. Fitness centers must follow the same Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements as other public facilities.

Rules and Regulations – Informed Liability

Most guest amenity fitness centers lack the ability to require members to sign a copy of fitness center rules or a release/waiver specific to the fitness center. As a practical option, post fitness center rules and regulations within the space to inform hotel guests of specific standards of conduct they must follow to maintain a safe environment. Posted rules may specify minimum age parameters for utilizing fitness equipment, appropriate workout attire, and fitness center etiquette and detail emergency procedures and guest assumption of risks while using the fitness center.

Emergency Plan

Fitness center incidents should be included in the emergency plan for the hotel. Staff member(s) on all shifts should be trained on emergency procedures for situations involving fitness center users and properly documenting relevant information should negligence come into question.

Slip and Fall Hazards / Prevention

Slip and fall accidents are a common liability risk in all public places and are certainly noteworthy concerns for fitness center operations. Injuries commonly occur from slippery floor surfaces or hazards in walkways. Designing fitness centers to include slip-resistant floor materials and implementing disciplined cleaning regimens will help prevent these injuries. Power cords for cardiovascular equipment should also be routed and secured to eliminate trip exposure. Staff should monitor the fitness center regularly to manage these risks and protect against liability.

Common Preventative Maintenance Practices for Cardiovascular Equipment

Bikes: (Daily) Clean control panel with dry cloth. Clean handles with mild antibacterial soap and damp cloth. Clean seat with mild antibacterial soap and damp cloth. (Weekly) Check equipment diagnostics through control panel for potential troubles. Check all screws and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. (Monthly) Remove bike housing and clean out dust and lint that may have accumulated. (As needed) See manufacturer guidelines. Elliptical Trainer (Daily) Clean control panel with dry cloth. Clean handles with mild antibacterial soap and damp cloth. Clean off foot pedals with damp cloth. (Weekly) Check equipment diagnostics through control panel for any potential troubles. Check all screws and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. (Monthly) Remove elliptical housing and clean out dust and lint that may have accumulated. (As Needed) See manufacturer guidelines. Variable-Resistance Equipment (Daily) Clean frames with mild soap and water. Clean upholstery with mild soap and water. (Weekly) Check all cables and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. Check moving parts, and adjust as needed. (Monthly) Lubricate guide rods with lightweight oil. (As Needed) Repair or replace pads. Replace cables if needed. Free Weight Benches (Daily) Clean frames with mild soap and water. Clean upholstery with mild soap and water. (Weekly) Check all cables and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. Check moving parts, and adjust as needed. (As Needed) Repair or replace pads. Replace cables, if needed. Dumbbells and Bars (Daily) Clean off bars with dry cloth. (Weekly) Check all screws and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. (Monthly) Use lightweight oil on cloth to remove any rust. (As Needed) Repair or replace broken bards and dumbbells. Treadmill (Daily) Clean control panel with dry cloth. Clean off housing with mild antibacterial soap and damp cloth. (Weekly) Check equipment diagnostics through control panel for potential troubles. Check all screws and bolts, and re-tighten as needed. (Monthly) Clean belt using a damp cloth. Check belt and deck surface, and lubricate as needed and per manufacturer’s specifications. (As Needed) Replace belt if uneven wear, excessive smoothness of walking area, sign of fraying, cuts, or snags, or wear on the belt seam is detected. See manufacturer guidelines.Source: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) – Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines (4th Edition)

Treadmills

Treadmills are the most popular type of fitness machines in the United States and account for the highest frequency of fitness center injuries. There are a variety of ways to be injured on a treadmill and ongoing research attributes a high frequency of incidents to cell phone distraction.  Another common danger appears to be turning the head to the side to look away from the console or looking down at the feet while moving, causing the user to drift to one side and lose balance.

Consumer Reports asserts severe injuries involve loss of balance or footing and contact with or pinning against neighboring objects or walls.  As a result, fitness industry experts and equipment manufacturers have attempted to put forward voluntary standards and guidelines for the space behind and on both sides of an active treadmill.

Consumer Reports also lists the following precautions for treadmill users:

  1. Use the safety key. All treadmills should have a safety key. One end plugs into the console and the other clips onto the user’s clothing. If the user falls, the key will disengage from the console and bring the treadmill to a safe stop.
  2. Straddle the deck. Avoid starting the treadmill while standing on the belt.  The motion could startle the user and knock the user off balance resulting in a fall.  The safest way to start is to straddle the belt and allow the belt to start moving before make a step to the belt.
  3. Do not overdo it. Monitor heart rate during exercise.  Maintain a moderate level of intensity during the workout. If chest pain, numbness, dizziness or unusual shortness of breath is experienced, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
  4. Keep small children away. Children between the ages of one and six sustain more injuries from treadmills than any other age group. These injuries are caused by falls after the machine is accidentally turned on.  Remove the safety key and keep it out of reach.
  5. Keep your head up. Always look ahead at the console or another focal point in the room.
  6. Don’t jump off the treadmill before it comes to a complete stop.
  7. Locate the emergency shut-off button before using the treadmill.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a guarantee of coverage and should not be used as a substitute for an individualized assessment of one’s need for insurance or alternative risk services, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice, which should only be rendered by a competent attorney familiar with the facts and circumstances of a particular matter. Copyright Beecher Carlson Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved.