The Ultimate Guide to Gym Safety, Injury Prevention, and Emergency Management

Are you looking for a surefire guide to maintaining a risk-free fitness studio? Owning or managing a smooth-running fitness gym comes with a lot of do’s and don’ts. A significant responsibility is ensuring your clients’ and staff’s safety.

Here we have a comprehensive guide to making your gym a safe space for everyone involved. In the following sections, we have some great tips that are informative and helpful. Read on to know more about preventing injuries, dealing with accidents, and preparing for emergencies.

Table of Contents

Carry out a Risk Assessment

Let’s cover the legal aspects of gym safety first. Gym owners are legally required to carry out a risk assessment periodically. You don’t necessarily have to do it yourself. However, you should make sure it’s done by someone who is competent enough and has appropriate health and safety training.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to risk assessment:

Determine the Potential Hazards

Get started by scrutinizing all aspects of your gym. Spot all kinds of objects and practices that could potentially harm or injure an employee, member, or visitor to your premise. An essential part of the inspection is to carefully check your gym equipment. There’s more detail about equipment safety in the following sections.

Go through the information provided by your gym equipment manufacturer. It can tell you a lot about gym machine safety and maintenance. It would help if you also examined any labels or leaflets that come with your facility’s cleaning chemicals. When your gym is in use, notice any activities that could be dangerous. For instance, watch out for heavy weights placed on high shelves. Prohibit crowded group training sessions with dangerously narrow spacing between members.

Make sure to ask your employees’ opinions when looking for potential dangers at your facility. They might have noticed things you’ve missed.

Identify High-Risk Members

Some people are more at risk of injury than others. For example, newbies at your gym are generally more prone to harm. This is because most of them are unfamiliar with your safety policies and equipment use. Also classify pregnant women as high-risk since certain kinds of exercises need prior approval from a doctor.

A responsible step is having a screening questionnaire before allowing new members to join your gym classes. You’ll be able to identify people who need clearance from a doctor before beginning an exercise routine.

After identifying high-risk groups, move on to the next step. This is where you consider other groups of people who may be at risk from various aspects of your gym. For instance, your staff could be at risk if you’re using hazardous cleaning chemicals. While ensuring your gym members’ safety is crucial, think of everyone else too. Your employees, contractors, and freelance instructors are also important groups to consider.

Take Appropriate Control Measures According to the Risks

Once you have identified potential harms and the groups at risk, move on to applying suitable safety measures. You can start with addressing the most significant risks. Take steps to eliminate them or at least reduce the threats they pose.

For instance, gym machines are common sources of injury to gym members. You can add warning notes to specific pieces of equipment that need extra care, like treadmills.

Hiring well-trained staff to watch over your workout space is another good practice for member safety during exercise. You can avoid several injuries by using anti-slip yoga mats. Using sanitizing products can ensure hygiene and prevent cross-infection of various diseases.

Document Your Assessment and the Steps You’ve taken as a Solution

Recording your risk assessment’s results and the solutions you have come up with is a legal necessity for all gyms except very small ones. You should also take care to inspect the safety measures you have installed from time to time. For instance, signs and warning labels may fade off, and non-slip features on the flooring may wear out.

Here’s everything your risk assessment notes should imply:

  • You thoroughly inspected your gym’s features and successfully identified all hazards
  • You correctly identified at-risk groups
  • You came up with solutions for all risks according to their seriousness
  • You have succeeded in creating a low-risk environment for your staff, members, and visitors
  • You consulted your workers during your risk assessment for their input

Review Your Risk Assessment from Time to Time

Once you’ve completed the risk assessment process, you have to keep reviewing it. Make sure to get back to it and make changes as your gym evolves. Mention any new machinery, features, and amenities with their hazardous aspects. You’ll also need to keep checking the safety measures you originally implemented. In cases of serious accidents at your facility, you’ll need to evaluate your risk assessment too.

Gym Features to Keep in Check

It can be tricky for some gym owners to identify potential hazards. Below we have a detailed account of most of the common features in fitness facilities you should keep in check.

Equipment

Ensure that all your gym equipment is in good enough condition for use and free from any harmful damage. This includes examining your cardio and weightlifting machines and all gym accessories. Inspect items like free weights, fitness balls, bars, steps, and mats.

You should also keep up with routine equipment maintenance. Your staff can handle everyday cleaning chores and basic maintenance. However, you’ll need to schedule routine professional-level servicing of bigger gym machines. Go through your manufacturer’s recommendations to know more about unique equipment care requirements.

We recommend all gym owners have an equipment maintenance checklist. This helps to keep track of essential servicing procedures. If there are any complaints of equipment defects, handle them straight away. Mark faulty equipment in a clear manner to prevent usage before you get it fixed. It’s also essential to know when to call a professional. You shouldn’t handle equipment problems you don’t have much knowledge about.

It’s best to always record your equipment faults and repairs. Also, ensure the correct use of electronic features in gym machines. For example, confirm proper usage of cables and loading capacities.

Gym Floor

Research has shown trips and falls to be a common occurrence in fitness centers. This is why it is important to be careful when selecting gym flooring. Non-slip surfaces generally serve better in workout spaces. Make sure your gym layout allows enough space between equipment for people to get on and off without any problem. Your emergency exit should also be easily accessible with a clear space that leads to it.

Include enough furniture at your gym to put away accessories when not in use. Keeping pieces of equipment lying around on the floor is a dangerous practice. You should ask your gym users to return free weights and mats to their storage racks after every session. Your staff members should also ensure a clear gym floor without any clutter at all times.

Also, minimize the usage of extended power cords since they are a trip hazard. Keep monitoring trip hazards on a regular basis, and keep your risk assessment records up to date.

The Building

Keeping general safety features in check is essential to maintain a low-risk environment. A well-constructed structure is a must, with adequate ventilation. Areas of heavy exercise need to have enough windows, air conditioning, and fans. This will enable proper airflow and keep your gym users and employees comfortable. Mirrors made of safety glass are a wise choice, with secure installation.

Easy-to-reach entrances and exits in a building are crucial when creating a safe space. Eliminate any trip hazards and examine the soundness of walls, doors, and fixtures. Check the roofs and windows for possible leaks. Encourage good safety practices among your workers, like mopping out any spillage right away.

Member privacy is also essential, so you should enforce rules that facilitate it. Have a no-cellphone, no-camera policy where relevant, such as in changing rooms. Follow a regular cleaning schedule to avoid health hazards and make your center a hygienic space for its users.

Security

Security features are also must-haves for any fitness gym. Appropriate rules and regulations can further ensure your gym users and colleagues’ safety. It’s best to prohibit staff members from working alone at your center, whether early morning or late at night. Useful security features include CCTV cameras on the front desk, ‘panic buttons’ for emergencies, easily accessible emergency contact numbers, and staff members trained for emergencies.

Your parking area is also important security-wise. Keep it well-lit and install cameras along with signs that warn about their placement. It’s always wise to restrict your facility’s access to your registered individuals, staff, and approved guests.

Hazardous Substances

Chemical hazards may exist in your gym as well, so you need to watch out for them. Try to use mild cleaning detergents instead of harsh ones that might endanger your employees. Have Material Safety Data Sheets at hand so your employees can refer to them easily when handling chemicals.

Your employees should be familiar with the appropriate way of handling and storing hazardous substances. Provide them with relevant Personal Protective Equipment where necessary. Keep a Hazardous Substance Register and make sure to update it regularly.

Emergency Features

You should have a dependable emergency response system at your gym to minimize damage in case of accidents. Ensure weekly testing of fire alarms, and carry out regular fire drills at your center. Keep a record of the drills, and fix any issues right away.

Your risk assessment must include a careful evaluation of evacuation paths and assembly points. Firstly, check whether all information regarding emergency exits is displayed clearly enough. Whenever you change your gym’s layout or add new equipment or furniture, retrace the evacuation route to make sure it stays uninterrupted.

A well-structured first aid kit is also essential to stay prepared in cases of unforeseen staff or member injuries. Allow easy access to it, and confirm that your staff knows its proper usage.

Staff Facilities

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Your staff’s wellbeing should be a top priority. You need to provide a comfortable environment, especially for your front desk and office staff. Ergonomic office chairs will full adjustability features can be a nice touch. Also educate your staff about proper adjustment of their keyboards, monitor, etc., to allow good postural support.

For your trainers and instructors, allow adequate rest between sessions to avoid overuse injuries. You can use a rostering system for this purpose. Keep the volume of your gym music in check for the wellness of your full-time staff to lower the risk of hearing damage.

Other Amenities

Many gyms have the following facilities available at their premises. Here’s everything to look out for:

  • Changing Rooms/Toilets

You need to provide access to well-maintained shower rooms, changing rooms, and toilets at your center. Check these areas to make sure that adequate health and safety measures are taken on an ongoing basis. They should conform to relevant building standards and be enough in number to easily accommodate your members without congestion.

Besides regular cleaning and hygiene maintenance, make use of common health and safety measures. These include non-slip mats in showers, precautionary signs on wet floors, regular mopping of spilled water, regular emptying of bins, and refilling soap dispensers.

  • Pool

Assign your staff members for daily, weekly, and monthly pool cleaning. Make sure they carry out the task properly. Keep a check on the cleaning products used and whether their labels have clear warnings.

Your pool’s chemical levels should also comply with the recommended water testing parameters. Get a qualified person to test out the pool water on a regular basis. You can also ask them to check chlorine/CO2 detectors for proper functioning. It’s essential to restrict access to your pool to those with GI illness, open wounds, or sores.

  • Sauna

If you have a sauna at your facility, take special care to follow basic safety and hygiene rules. While your cleaning staff’s daily maintenance checks are important, you should also enforce necessary rules for those who avail of it. Ensure your members use shorts and towels, and prohibit shaving, eating, and drinking inside the steam room/sauna.

We recommend installing a duress alarm and also a clock that is clearly visible to sauna users. You should require your members to shower before allowing them inside the steam room as a good hygiene practice. Post clear signs that advise against sauna use in cases of medical conditions or when under the effect of alcohol or drugs.

A crucial aspect of a sauna is a well-functioning thermostat set at the recommended temperature. Also important is the distance of the seating from heat sources.

  • Crèche

Some gyms also offer childcare services as an additional service. You’ll need to keep up with a strict safety protocol if you have a crèche at your center. Only allow parents who have gone through a registration procedure inside this designated area, and make sure you clearly install signs about the restricted access. 

We recommend installing surveillance monitors for further safety and having qualified staff to supervise the children at all times. Parents who avail of this service must be required to put down their name and address in the crèche’s sign-in/sign-out register.

Your legal safety is just as important, and for that, you will have to confirm a crèche that abides by all of the relevant child care laws. Monitor new candidates for child care positions, and check if they are suited to working in the crèche before hiring them.

Train Your Staff

A key step in maintaining a safe space is hiring competent staff members. Your team should be qualified enough to prevent accidents and handle any emergencies that may arise. Have a minimum qualification requirement when you hire a staff member. Always check the proof of their qualifications before they start working.

We recommend encouraging your employees to attend further training sessions as well. These may include hazard identification and reporting, basic life support, fitness training, etc. The following kinds of training are essential for your employees to stay competent:

  • Basic training for health and safety is relevant for all your team members. To enable a safe space for your gym users, you will want your employees’ cooperation. They can make sure that maximum safety measures are taken.
  • First aid training is a legal requirement for those employees who directly face your customers. Live training by qualified professionals is necessary for all common medical emergencies and gym injuries. Information about the properly identifying medical emergencies, contact details of local helplines, and hands-on CPR practice can be very valuable.  
  • Fire safety sessions are essential to minimize the risk of damage by fire hazards. There are plenty of electronics at fitness centers, so your facility is high-risk compared to other workplaces.
  • Fitness training is an obvious requirement for all your gym instructors. Ask them to show relevant certification before hiring them to train your gym members. They should have adequate knowledge about equipment use and unsafe exercise practices.

Direct Safety Measures for Gym Members

All your gym safety measures will end up contributing towards your members’ wellness. The following suggestions are some direct steps to take to make your gym users feel well cared for:

Direct Health and Safety Information

It’s best to brief your members about the high-risk aspects of your gym. Ask your trainers to let them know about safe exercise training practices. Inform them about the health risks linked to overexertion. Offer proper training to newbies about the usage of fitness equipment during their induction. These steps can decrease the likelihood of injuries and accidents at your center.

For health safety, point out sanitizer dispensers to control the spread of infection. Educate them about common hygiene hazards and stretching methods as well.

Member Wellness

Asking your members to fill a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) can help know whether they need approval from a physician before starting an exercise program. Keep vending machines, drinking fountains, and water dispensers easily available near your exercise area. Make sure to point them out to new members during the induction phase to avoid dehydration.

Avoid temperature extremes in the studio to lessen the chances of early fatigue in gym users and keep the temperature comfortable for all members. Ensure noise levels are low enough to prevent discomfort. Keep records of members’ unique health conditions, their limitations, and their progress so that new trainers or instructors can be well informed about their audience from the very first day. 

General Hygiene and Safety Rules

Enforce the use of proper clothing and training shoes before allowing your members to exercise in your studio. Ask them to wipe down equipment after usage to reduce the chances of cross-infection through sweat. You can provide easy access to dispensers containing disinfectant solution and enough towels to enable users to follow this rule. It’s also best to have limited slots for group exercise classes to allow safe distancing without risking injury.

Member Supervision

Your job is far from done even after taking appropriate safety measures and holding a detailed member induction. Accidents can happen, and information can be forgotten. You need to appoint staff members to keep an eye on your members’ activities and answer any queries they have—monitor whether they are using the equipment correctly for their fitness level. Help them if they’re struggling with maintaining a good exercising posture. Warn them about equipment that is best left unused until they progress in strength. Moreover, manage any accidents professionally without creating panic and disturbing others.

Preparing for Accidents and Emergencies

You only have limited control over the goings-on at your gym, so even after taking the maximum safety measures, you can’t prevent accidents and injuries indefinitely. What you can do, however, is prepare well for any scenario that requires quick and efficient action on your part. This will create a responsible and competent image of your fitness business that your clients are bound to appreciate. It may also save you from any troubling lawsuits, in some cases!

User Injury

We recommend having multiple first aid kits at your premises for easy accessibility. Your customer-facing staff should be watchful and competent enough to deal with physical injuries from exercise and equipment use, including trips, falls, sprains, and strains. Make sure to go through common causes of gym injuries during the member induction process. Your employees are equally important, and you need to provide first aid facilities in case of any harm.

Keep records of all accidents and close calls in an accident logbook. These will be useful during risk assessment reviews and legal complications.

Fire Hazards

All your employees should undergo fire safety training sessions, and your nominated fire wardens should have fire warden training. Educate your team about the risks associated with fires and the control measures necessary to keep them low. Follow a testing schedule, once weekly for fire alarms and once monthly for smoke detectors. Install appropriate signage for emergency exits and assembly point s, and mention them during member induction sessions as well.

Evacuation Routes

Ensure a well-lit evacuation route with easy access and adequate clearance. Form a warden team trained to enable easy and safe evacuation from the building when emergencies arise. Installing evacuation diagrams is also a good initiative, as are staff training and drills at least twice a year.

COVID-19 Safety Measures

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, no gym safety discussion is complete without mentioning the recommended health and safety guidelines to prevent infection. Make sure that your practices are in accordance with the latest coronavirus infection control requirements.

Check the temperature of all individuals before allowing them to enter the facility. If anyone has higher than normal temperature, ask them to take leave and get tested. Ensure 6-feet distancing with masks on, and 14-feet distancing without face masks. Limit the members you allow at one time inside your facility.

Your cleaning staff should be on their toes, disinfecting and sanitizing gym machines between users. Establish proper hygiene protocols, such as frequent handwashing and sanitizer use. Install user-friendly sanitizer dispensers and use proper signage that encourages COVID precautions. Ensure face coverage, space out your equipment, and encourage your team to follow safety protocols as well. 

Conclusion

Failing to conform with safety standards can mean trouble for your business. A slight negligence on your part can endanger the lives of your team, clients, and contractors. Use checklists to ensure you don’t miss essential safety measures. Hand out tasks to your employees to implement those measures. Whatever steps you take, keep records of your observations and actions.

You must now be well-informed about the safety standards expected from you as a gym owner/manager. We understand that it can be challenging to single-handedly address potential risks. That is why working with a competent team can help you ensure a smooth-running, low-risk gym for all.

Have further questions about gym safety and emergency protocols? Drop us a comment, and we’ll get back to you soon!

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