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Liability Considerations for the Personal Trainer
and Facility Business Owner
2006: Volume 3, Number 1

 

Amy Blansit-Broadbent, MA

Founder, American College of Wellness

 

Any legal complaints filed against your business can be financially damaging— and ultimately destructive. A personal trainer, owner of a training facility or business is at an even greater risk for liability due to the physical nature of the business.

But there are steps that you can take to avoid being sued. Share the following advice with your employees and implement these tips into your business practice for a greater chance of avoiding the hassle and expense-ridden legal process.

Tips to Help You Avoid Liability Claims

  • Immediately fix or throw away any faulty exercise or other types of equipment. Make sure your equipment is well maintained as defined by the owner’s manual for each product. Avoid being charged with negligence by inspecting your equipment regularly and documenting the inspection and any repairs. If you notice any damage, even very minor problems, do not allow anyone (including clients or employees) to use the equipment until all necessary repairs have been made. Never alter any type of equipment or use it in any manner other than that specifically recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Make sure your business premises are safe. Monitor your facility regularly for potential hazards that may pose a threat to your clients or employees. Assign to all your employees the duty of watching for any spilled water or excess sweat that could cause a slip or fall. Install proper flooring materials and non-skid mats to any shower-area floors. Keep your parking lot free of debris and well lit at night.

  • Create and maintain all necessary paperwork. Paperwork is your key to protection. Work with your attorney to draft a ‘release from liability’ form for each member of your facility. Any paperwork containing personal information, including medical or insurance information, releases, and waivers, should be stored in a secure and carefully locked location. Document every incident that occurs at your business, from minor incidents to major accidents, even if the individuals involved in the incident were not injured. Retain all business-related paperwork for five to seven years.

  • Don’t require your employees to obtain CPR training. Believe it or not, from a legal standpoint it is best not to require your staff to be CPR certified. By requiring this type of training, your business can be liable for the staffs’ actions or errors. Practice regularly with those employees who are trained in CPR to keep their skills sharp, and remind staff members to stay within their limits of training if an emergency does ever occur.

  • Carefully regulate any supplements or diet consultations you offer through your business. If your company staff includes a dietary consultant who is not a registered dietitian or nutritional specialist, your company is at risk. Fad diets can be dangerous. Do not recommend any dietary action for a client unless you or your employee is well educated and trained in nutritional and dietary concerns. Consult with a physician or registered dietitian regularly to ensure that the information you present to your customers is accurate, complete, and above all safe.

  • Your best plan is to avoid lawsuits by being proactive, well informed, and careful in every aspect of your business practice. Make sure you and your staff document and sign everything. If you do ever get sued, contact your attorney and insurance company immediately. Don’t make any statements to your clients about the situation, and never speak to a representative of the person suing you. (This can include an insurance agent or an attorney.) Even simple phone conversations could prove detrimental to your case, so if any of these individuals ask you to talk, just refer them to your attorney then immediately end the conversation. (Never forget that someone can be recording everything you say over the phone.) Also, be sure your employees understand the importance of not sharing their opinions about the incident, and tell them not to make a statement of any kind to anyone. Immediately after an incident occurs, gather and document as much information as you can, but continue to conduct business as usual. Remember, sometimes these legal troubles can’t be avoided, but they also can’t be allowed to detract from the service you provide to your customers.

 

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(C) 2006 The Medical Wellness Association