Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Managing Fitness RisKey
Managing Fitness in Your Work Space
Employee wellness and good health includes regular exercise. Many employers now encourage wellness by offering weight rooms, exercise bikes, aerobics classes, and other formal fitness activities to employees and their families. Like any activity, there are risks involved. You can either plan around those risks now, or risk translating a person’s health program into a wealthy injury.
When a fitness program is purely voluntary and occurs outside work hours and premises, there is little risk you will be responsible for any injuries, accidents, or harm that strikes down any participant. When you allow or encourage employees to participate in any fitness program, even a quick jog up the stairs during breaks can cause an injury and a workers’ compensation claim. Anyone using your fitness equipment or facilities on your premises may sue you for any harm that befalls him or her. Even if you did not cause or contribute to the accident, you can run up a large attorney bill to prove your innocence. If you are found responsible, you will be asked to pay the claimant’s medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. All of those costs eventually turn up in your premium assessments.
Reduce Your Risk of being named in a workers compensation claim or third party liability suit by minimizing your agency’s participation in organizing and operating a fitness program.
  • Encourage employees to sponsor the fitness activities instead of you. Suggest interested employees review their own homeowners insurance for possible liability protection.
  • Better yet, suggest they build their own fitness club and:
    • seek their own legal counsel to establish a non-profit corporation or association,
    • formalize bylaws, rules, and the process to police participants, and
    • contact an insurance agent to arrange commercial liability insurance.
  • Move fitness activities off premises.
  • Call your Risk Management Consultant. We can put you in touch with others who set up independent fitness clubs.
Control Your Risk. If you decide to allow fitness activities on your premises spell out your expectations of the sponsored activity in a lease.
  • Limit your control over the sponsor by identifying:
    • Who may use the facility. Will you only allow employees? What about other family members over 18, friends, children?
    • Days and times facility may be used. If office security arrangements are necessary, say so. Who is responsible for keys, after hours lock-up, light and equipment checks?
    • Allowed activities such as aerobics, weightlifting, stationary cycling.
    • Conditions of use such as maintenance of equipment and periodic clean up.
    • Fee or rent for using premises.
  • Require all participants to sign a release of liability. Releases cannot relieve you of all responsibility, but they demonstrate the participant was informed of the risks, conditions, and expectations you have for the activity.
  • We recommend you exclude children as participants. However, if you decide to allow children to participate, both the minor and their guardian must sign any release. The release may not be honored by a judge. The minor may come back to sue you after reaching age 18 even if a release was signed.
  • Decide whether you will accept responsibility for sponsor’s property and equipment while on your premises. Clarify your limits in the lease. If you agree to cover the property for loss, require sponsor to give you a list of the property and its approximate value. Include property you agreed to cover in the Annual Risk Report.
Sample premises and participant agreements are attached. They have been approved by the attorney general. We recommend you share your specific fitness program plans with your legal counsel and have these samples tailored to fit your program.
Your success in avoiding a claim or lawsuit rides on how well you anticipate harm to participants and precautions you take to minimize the risk or warn participants of risks you foresee. The ultimate cost of a claim is impacted by others you required to share in possible claims costs. Reduce your share of the burden by transferring risks to the sponsor or property owner. Require insurance for participants. Inform participants of risks and require participants to assume the risks involved in the program.
Sample Forms:
Agreement for Participation in Activities (pdf)
Fitness Room Use Agreement (pdf)
Fitness Room Property Exhibit (pdf)