Guest Column - July 2015
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Stop Overlooking Fitness Facility Supervision

By Meghan Mowers & Dr. Peter Titlebaum


For a facility to properly manage risk and liability, documentation is at the forefront of necessities. Nothing can be proven without paperwork documenting it occurred. Such is the case in Guerra v. Howard Beach Fitness Center, Inc. where the plaintiff sued the facility after being thrown off a treadmill when its tread shifted. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff when the defense failed to provide evidence that the equipment had been inspected and that they took suitable safety precautions for the people using the exercise equipment.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, records need to be kept on the following eight items:

  1. Cleaning and maintenance
  2. Safety procedures
  3. Manufacturer's warranties and guidelines
  4. Assumption-of-risk forms
  5. Medical waivers and clearance forms
  6. Personnel credentials
  7. Injury reports
  8. Professional guidelines and recommendations

In addition, to having clearly written policies informing the employee of all of their responsibilities, have the employee review and sign in the presence of a staff member documents that he understands and accepts his responsibilities. A review of these responsibilities would also be part of the required training discussed above.

How do these methods affect your venue? Let's look at a scenario and assess the necessary steps: A participant is walking backward on a treadmill. An employee must inform the participant that his action is against facility rules. Given that he is a member and therefore underwent orientation and formally agreed to follow the facility rules, consequences are required. The employee would look to see if previous violations had been filed and act accordingly. Keep in mind that facilities can have different consequences, the following is merely an example. All documentation should include the date, time, incident, and consequence, names of the employee and participant, as well as their signatures.

1st offense: Write-up and correction of use
2nd offense: Write-up and warning
3rd offense: Write-up and suspension

Despite being an entry-level job, fitness attendants are one of the most important positions; they are the first and last impression a facility makes on its members and they are in charge of maintaining a safe environment. Orientation and documentation are simple fixes to a common issue found in a growing industry.

Meghan Mowers, CSCS, is a graduate of Ohio Northern University and a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) with her Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification. Currently, she is pursuing her Master's of Science in Education in Exercise Science at the University of Dayton. Dr. Peter Titlebaum, Professor of Sport Management at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, has more than 25 years' experience in management in the profit, nonprofit, private and public sectors. He speaks and writes on areas of networking, organizational and personal development, educating audiences to be their own advocates.