Risk Management 101: Fitness and Recreation Centers

| January 28, 2015

According to a recent article in Recreation Management, there are approximately sixteen million lawsuits filed annually in state courts – a rate of about one every two seconds. Few industries are more susceptible than fitness and recreation. Fortunately, we've outlined some simple steps to help you protect your business and keep your patrons safe.

Owning a fitness center can be a lucrative and rewarding experience - but before you are able to help people live healthier, happier lives, you need to make sure that you have a risk management plan in place to protect your business. We understand that this isn’t nearly as exciting for you as getting a good workout in, but it is very necessary in making sure your business runs smoothly and successfully. Having a comprehensive risk management plan in place can minimize the chances of an accident or avoid one altogether.


Waivers (or release forms) are very important. A well-constructed waiver can be the lone reason that you aren’t held liable in the event that an injured patron files suit against your business.

It is recommended that you consult a lawyer in the process of assembling a release form to make sure it is articulated in a way that will hold up in your defense in a court setting. Also, many states handle waivers differently, so be sure to consult an attorney about your state specific exposure.


Safety is priority number one, but keeping your clientele safe in a chaotic environment such as a gym is no easy task. Here are a few guidelines to help make sure your gym runs safely:


  • The rules need to be posted everywhere clearly – AND consistently echoed by gym staff.
  • Be sure that your fitness professionals are sufficiently trained and certified in helping clients reach their fitness goals.
  • Class instructors and personal trainers should have professional liability coverage in place for their teaching. They should have waivers for clients to sign for the professional services they will provide.


  • Assess new members’ health by running a standard health check. Example: blood pressure reading, height, weight, eating habits, history of family illness, etc.
  • It’s imperative they are properly instructed on general use of gym equipment. One might assume that everybody knows how to bench press and not cover technique, but this could result in a member hurting themselves and filing suit for wrongful or poor instruction on equipment use.
  • There should be sufficient security covering the premises. In the event of a natural disaster, reported gunman, or simple break in, make sure your gym has a working security system in place to defend against these possibilities.

General liability:

General liability, a key component of any fitness center’s risk-management plan, protects business owners from claims of injury, property damage, and negligence that are related to their business activities.

Slip and fall claims are one of the most common scenarios that general liability covers. This type of suit could be filed against your gym simply because somebody missed the last step of the staircase and injured themselves because they were paying attention to their phone instead of where they were walking– but without general liability coverage in place during this situation, your business could take a serious financial hit.

We at Clarke & Sampson can help the success of your fitness center by tailoring the right coverage options for your specific needs. If you have any questions give our agent Scott Jefferson a call at (703) 683-6601 or click the button below.