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Ask an Expert: John Peoples


Picture 1You have questions, we have answers. We took some time this month to speak with John Peoples, the general manager of Hockessin Athletic Club in Hockessin, Del., about how to avoid liability issue within your club.

What are some areas of the club most susceptible to liability issues and why?

JP: Wet areas such as locker rooms and pool decks present the obvious slip-and-fall risks. Children’s play areas also have a significant role as they tend to be high traffic, and anytime a child is injured, no matter how slightly, it tends to evoke a very emotional response.

What are some uncommon issues that arise in a club, in terms of liability?

JP: With a full-service club the potential liability issues can vary greatly. Clubs have exposure beginning in the parking lot with pedestrian safety. Once in the club, the exposure is expanded to include making sure all the equipment is in good working order so that injury does not result. Cleanliness is paramount so that exposure to such things as mold and staph are minimized.
Given the amount of interpersonal contact in a club, operators must have as complete information as possible on who is working for them. One area that is often overlooked is data security, as clubs often obtain personal information to include credit card numbers as part of the enrollment process. How that data is stored can pose significant exposure.

How can clubs be prepared to handle liability risks on the front end?

JP: Regular walk-throughs of the club to look for potential problem areas are critical, so that they are corrected before an incident occurs. A video surveillance system covering as much of the club’s potential problem areas as possible should certainly be considered as a good investment. Background checks on all employees should be done as a condition of hire. Clubs must have a reporting process in place so when an incident does occur, as complete information as possible is obtained from all parties involved, as well as witnesses. This information should be forwarded to the club’s insurance provider as quickly as possible.

Why is it important for clubs to stay proactive in preventing liability risks?

JP: Staying proactive means that the club’s customers and employees are at the least possible risk for injury, which should be the primary goal of any loss-prevention policy. In addition, being proactive means that there is a mindset within the organization. Providing a safe environment is the concern of all who work at the club, not just a select few who are charged with the task.

How can clubs work with members to help prevent liability risks?

JP: Clubs should provide an environment where members feel that they can go to any employee in the club with any issue that they feel is a potential hazard. They should feel their concern will be treated with respect, gratitude and acted upon.

What are Five Liability Risks Clubs Should Be Most Aware Of?

1. Employee backgrounds

2. Proper equipment maintenance

3. Facility cleanliness

4. Storage of confidential information

5. Slip-and-fall hazards

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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