Managing Risk and Safety For Steam Rooms and Saunas

sauna and steam room

There are very few things that feel as good as reaping the benefits of a sauna after a long, arduous workout. Along with an increase in blood flow, the soothing of muscles and the flushing of toxins — saunas are just relaxing, for both your body and mind.

The popularity of saunas is rising, and having one could be your club’s point of differentiation against competition. But, just like any other luxurious amenity in your club, saunas take maintenance, and they come with risk.

Brian Rawlings, senior underwriter with Fitlife Program — Venture Insurance Programs, said that managing a sauna comes down to more than just worrying about wet surfaces.

“In addition to slips and falls, I’ve seen a number of sauna fires and incidents where elderly members have passed out, and been left in there for long periods of time before being noticed,” said Rawlings.

Eric Hoffman, the director of corporate insurance and risk management for XSport Fitness, said the No. 1 concern for steam rooms and sauna areas should be member safety, and agreed that he has seen a lot of members stay in the saunas for too long of a period of time.

“It is dangerous to stay in those warm areas for an extended amount of time,” said Hoffman. “If it is a smaller gym with infrequent usage, I would consider a timer on the sauna and steam room. The time should be a max of 15 minutes.”

Oftentimes the sauna is hidden in the corner of a locker room, so you have to make sure that they’re getting regular traffic from employees to inspect. In addition to inspections to make sure no one is in peril, Rawlings and Hoffman gave other tips to measure how well you and your club are doing on lowering the risks of operating a sauna:

Proper warning signage

“Proper signage should include [text stating] that members should discuss with their physician before use, no shaving in sauna, no gym shoes in steam/sauna room, and to wear appropriate water-resistant shoes only,” said Hoffman.

Regular cleaning and disinfecting

Both Hoffman and Rawlings said that it is important to deep clean a sauna/steam room regularly.

“We’re talking about damp, dark spaces,” said Hoffman. “They should be deep cleaned at least once a week, meaning turned off, hosed and scrubbed thoroughly. I would also recommend cleaning the light in the room, as it is something that is easily overlooked.”

Hoffman said worst practices he sees are saunas that are neglected. Because it is a damp dark space, eventually it will have bacteria [and in some cases mold built-up] if neglected.

“Saunas and steam rooms are a great amenity for members, and they deserve the same attention that the rest of the gym gets to ensure that membership satisfaction remains constant throughout all areas of the gym,” added Hoffman.

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