Reducing Risk Starts with Signage
“Clubs are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide notice of potential hazards by posting signage to enhance customer awareness,” notes Michael Swain, senior risk solution specialist at Markel Specialty. “While some of this may be handwritten or computer-generated, it is important that owners understand the standards outlined by ASTM International’s F1749, the standard specification for fitness equipment and fitness facility safety signage and labels when posting signage.”
Size and color are two of the core issues related to signage best practices. For size, you should display signs so they are clearly visible and legible, featuring a recommended font size of 72 points or larger.
In terms of color, yellow or orange signs with black lettering are considered universal when advising people of potential hazards. Red is a color that people associate with stopping. Don’t post signs on regular white paper, as they can easily be confused with memos and other notices. Shapes also help convey your message. For example, use a red, octagon-shaped sign when you want people to stop. Triangular or diamond-shaped signs with yellow or orange lettering work best as warnings.
Swain suggests that you contact your local sign shop to customize signs to meet your gym’s specific needs.
Keeping a Lid on Liability
Perhaps the best protection is being proactive by taking steps to help prevent safety-related problems before they occur. With that in mind, Swain says there are a range of best practices you can employ to help prevent slip, trip, and fall accidents.
“Keep circulation areas free of tripping hazards,” he suggests. “Advise staff and members to keep equipment cords, weights, other loose gym equipment, bags, clothing, and other personal equipment out of circulation areas. Keep children and pets out of that area as well. Post signage telling members to be on the lookout for children or pets that may be present.”
Vigilance is, of course, critical. Inspect all public areas, including bathrooms and locker rooms, frequently. Remove potential tripping hazards immediately. Maintain a written log of your activities to help establish consistency.
Keep people out of restricted areas, restrict access to hazardous areas, and post a notice indicating those areas are off-limits.
On wet days, use absorbent mats.
Place mats at all entryways and ensure that they have slip-resistant backings and provide adequate coverage. Change out dirty or saturated mats for clean ones and replace mats that have curled up at the edges. Post “wet floor” signs when necessary.
Walkways, hallways, and stairways should be well lit and clearly illuminated at all times. Properly maintain external walkways. Remove snow and ice from walkways and apply ice melt in areas that might refreeze. Repair holes in the parking lot area and remove obvious tripping hazards. Paint handicapped ramps with yellow, non-skid warning paint to increase visibility.
“Finally, check your leasing agreement,” Swain says. “If you’re not required to maintain your leased premises, be persistent about ensuring that your landlord performs necessary repairs. Document your conversations and send written correspondence confirming them. If the landlord is unwilling to work with you, consider speaking with an attorney to discuss what options you may have.”