How to respond to incidents in your club
by Bill Coons, Sr. Loss Control Specialist
Club owners often reach out to us and ask the question, “What do I do if someone says they got hurt in my club?” Another common question in follow up to this is, “How will I know if I’m supposed to report an incident to the insurance company or not?” The answers to these questions may vary slightly depending on the type of incident, but creating an incident response policy and training employees will go a long way in protecting your health and fitness center from financial loss.Member Incidents
Club owners have a responsibility to provide members with their “advertised” work out experience. Typically this includes a safe place to exercise, functional equipment, member rules, cleanliness, good lighting, clear walk-ways, competent trainers, and knowledgeable staff. When a member experiences something other than what they perceive they were promised their reaction may result in a club’s need to respond. By far the most common incident occurring to club members is injuries caused by what is commonly referred to as, “member malfunction.” Some examples of member malfunction claims include: knee blows out while doing squats, member rolls off a fit-ball injuring wrist, member strains back while doing dead lifts, member smashes fingers replacing dumbbells, and the most common is
member falls off treadmill.
When a member reports an injury, or that something went wrong while they were in your gym, the first step to take is to begin the incident response protocol. The on-site manager should complete the incident report which should include the member’s name, personal information, incident information, and what injuries are being alleged. (For a sample health club incident report click here) Additionally, names and statements of witnesses to the incident should be collected. (For a sample witness report click here) Taking these two steps will help preserve evidence in the event of a lawsuit that may not be filed for up to two years after an incident. While initial incidents are being investigated there should be no comments made by club employees about fault for the accident. If the member admits fault that should be recorded on the incident report as it will help in claim defense at a later time.
After incident information is gathered it should be placed in the member’s file and a copy of the membership agreement, training and orientation paperwork, as well as the membership waiver and release forms should be placed with the report. At this time the initial report information is ready for the insurance company.
In most cases a club owner will know whether or not to report an incident to the insurance company. It is a good idea, however, if you’re in doubt about reporting an incident to send the report into the company and notify the company the incident being sent in as a reporting only incident. This will protect the club from violating the insurance policy reporting requirements if the incident turns into a claim at a later date. The insurance policy states the following about reporting incidents:
Duties in the event of Occurrence, Offense, Claim, or Suit
“You must see to it that we are notified as soon as practicable of an ‘occurrence’ or an offense which may result in a claim.” Failure on the part of a club to report an incident timely could void coverage in some states.
Fitness centers can take some key steps to reducing the risk of accidents such as:
- Signs cautioning members to pay attention while using treadmills and other equipment
- Member orientation to include club rules such as racking weights after use
- Periodic club inspections to correct any deficiencies noted