Leisure centres, gyms and outdoor sporting areas can be incredibly dangerous places. Although they’re designed to encourage physical exercise and healthier lifestyles, every leisure activity comes with its own set of hazards and risks, and these dangers are exacerbated when business owners are unable to implement adequate health and safety procedures.

From carrying out risk assessments to providing guidance on using equipment correctly, ensuring safety in a fitness centre can seem like an incredibly daunting task at times. After all, such an environment is always going to pose a serious risk of injury or accident, with many employers investing in health and safety eLearning courses to train staff and help minimise those dangers.

But why exactly are health and safety, so important to a sports medicine and injury clinic likeAESM in a fitness environment?

Follow Health and Safety Law

Although you might consider your health and safety policy to be something of a secondary concern, you actually have a legal obligation to draw up a written policy and provide thorough training to employees. Due to the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, all employers have a responsibility to keep staff, visitors and customers as safe as possible.

Owners of gyms and leisure centres certainly aren’t exempt from these laws, and must be able to prove they’ve done everything “reasonably practical” to ensure the health and safety of those on their premises. Essentially, this involves identifying any hazards and then taking the necessary steps to either control or eradicate those risks.

There aren’t any specific legal requirements for those that run businesses in the leisure sector, but the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations, 1996, ensure that all adventure activities follow effective safety management practises—since they pose even greater risks than other leisure activities.

Identify Hazards and Reduce Risks

As part of their legal obligations, every gym and leisure centre owner needs to carry out a risk assessment to identify any potential risks on the premises. Once you’ve identified the most obvious hazards and taken steps to minimise them, then the risk of accident or injury on your premises will be significantly reduced.

A typical assessment will involve a thorough examination of the premises, equipment and procedures, which is followed by an evaluation of the risks involved and then the implementation of sensible control measures. It’s always a good idea to prioritise the biggest dangers first, but eventually all apparent risks need to be reduced to a satisfactory level.

Without a risk assessment or adequate health and safety policy in place, staff members and visitors are put at serious risk of injury. Of course, when an accident does inevitably occur, your business could either be faced with a hefty fine or criminal prosecution—which could result in a conviction if you’ve been found to be deliberately negligent.

Protect Staff Members and Customers

By enforcing effective health and safety procedures, you’ll be going a long way towards protecting your staff members and customers. Not only are you legally obliged to ensure their health and safety while on your premises, but building a safer environment will only enhance your company’s reputation and ultimately help to avoid any fatal accidents. Although all establishments are undeniably different, there are some common practical measures every fitness environment should take:

Maintain Equipment

Whether you run an international gym chain or a local children’s play centre, neglected equipment can always prove incredibly dangerous to those using it. It’s important for staff members to regularly check for faulty or unsafe machinery, and then take steps to either remove it or have it repaired. Most checks will involve an inspection of the equipment’s general condition, but you also need to make sure it’s located in a safe area with plenty of room for participants to use it.

Health and Safety Training

Providing your employees with adequate health and safety training should be an important part of your policy. In a fitness environment, staff members will be expected to provide visitors with adequate equipment training and deliver first aid when required, while they’ll also be required to respond to any emergency situations. Without the proper training, this just wouldn’t be possible.

Supervise Gym Members and Activity Participants

When using equipment or taking part in an activity for the first time, all participants will require some level of supervision. For gyms, a great way of enhancing health and safety procedures is by providing new users with a thorough induction session, showing them around the facilities and demonstrating how to safely use the machines—other leisure activities might involve a safety briefing or constant staff monitoring.

Respond Quickly to Emergencies

The risk of emergency in a fitness environment is always going to be high, since the sheer physical exertion could result in a nasty injury or serious health problem, and accidents can always happen when equipment and machinery are involved.

Effective health and safety policies will ensure that staff members are able to respond quickly to any emergency situations, whether it be a customer or employee that requires urgent attention. Quick communication is vital and can be encouraged through the use of lone worker radio devices. Of course, every business also needs to have fire safety procedures in place, so that everyone on the premises can be ushered to a safe location in the event of an alarm being triggered.

Without the required safety measures in place, staff members simply won’t be able to handle an emergency situation, which could have incredibly damaging consequences for both your business and everyone on the premises.