Feature Article - January 2014
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Keeping Fit, Keeping Safe

Safety Elements Can Be Attractively Designed

By Rick Dandes

The Perception of Safety

All well and good, Fabiano said, "but there must also be an overall perception of safety, which comes into play more in 24-hour clubs, where individuals might actually be working out at very late hours.

"In the higher-end clubs that I deal with," Fabiano added, "the element of member or non-member being allowed into the club is an issue. Sadly, this is a product of the new world in which we live. My sense is that at some point, that is going to be a design element we are going to have to deal with. It's a tough one. Designers don't want to bring it up because we're inferring that bad things are going to happen or could happen, which we know that they do."

Fabiano works with Jewish Community Centers, "and the ones we work with have been on alert for some time. So there is a real need to make sure than anybody who comes through the security is allowed and should be there."

There is also the element of child safety. Many fitness clubs provide child-care services, and many community centers offer preschool programs. "If you have children on your premises," Fabiano said, "you don't want them to walk through the equipment. When we design children's areas, we always place them by side walls, near where there is an emergency exit. So, if there is danger, a fire or some kind of emergency, there is a very natural exit out of the building."

Accessibility & Senior Safety

Accessibility is crucial for any public facility. The ADA requires a 5-foot clearance in circulation paths so those in a wheelchair can access equipment. Consequently, centers should ensure that at least one circulation pathway provides this level of clearance. Furthermore, club owners might want to consider providing an area specifically for those needing accessible equipment. ADA requires that a person with disabilities must be able to access the equipment in a wheelchair; ADA also says there needs to be a clear space of 30 inches by 48 inches adjacent to each unit that will be accessed by those with disabilities. As for flooring, you can use the same flooring as the general areas, but make sure to provide ramps if there is a change in height.

Pay particular attention to the locker room, and the wet areas, Nagel added. "When you first think of the handicapped, it seems like a very narrow marketplace, but as our population continues to age, terms like handicapped get blurred … to where you want to include people that are just aging."

When you are looking at the wet areas with tile floors you need to go beyond the regulated slip coefficients provided by manufacturers. Take a 68-year-old man who has to start exercising because he has a heart issue or he is overweight; after a hard workout he goes to the shower room but he's feeling a little worn out from his workout. "I always use products on my wet area floors that far exceed the industry standard for slip co-efficiency because I don't want people slipping and hitting their heads," Nagel said. He suggested using a smaller scale tile, where you have a good amount of grout lines in it that allows for the feet to really grip.

Fabiano has another suggestion: When he designs a hospital facility, where there are a significant number of elderly users, he makes sure there is an alarm somewhere in the locker or shower area in case someone falls, or just needs assistance.