Here are three things to consider in terms of liability in your facility:
1. In our industry, we are not selling products as much as we are selling access to a space. Access to that space is what drives people to pay the premiums asked of them. This space — your gym — is your product, and it must be adequately monitored to protect it. Card access systems paired with surveillance systems can help minimize theft in your space and the liabilities associated with the members that enjoy your gym.
2. A properly-designed access control system is imperative to managing access to your facility. Access is what you sell, and it should be controlled. When people are let in through a secondary entrance (employee entrances, emergency exits or delivery doors), this can be perceived as a theft of your space. The person who has entered the space without your approval becomes a liability, as they have never agreed to your terms and conditions. Tight credential management, tailgating prevention and access control will help you ensure that the people within your facility have properly paid and agreed to your established terms and conditions.
3. Traditionally, surveillance systems have been looked at as technology for loss prevention, or theft. These systems are very good at that, and can help identify if you have a problem in a retail environment like a café or clothing area in your facility. However, a surveillance system — designed properly for the club environment — can also be used to defend clubs in a single slip-and-fall claim, equipment misuse resulting in litigation, or if an altercation between a member and staff or two members occurs. Arming yourself with a surveillance system gives your legal counsel the tools to settle all claims at the lowest possible price. As a result, the system can pay for itself many times over. As a facility owner and operator, your liability to these types of claims is significantly higher than the potential loss of protein bars in your café.
Technology solutions for surveillance and access control are readily available and more accurate and cost effective than they have ever been. New IP-based systems utilize the computer network you already have in your facility and can provide more information and higher resolution images than ever before. Every serious operator should be utilizing these systems. Keep in mind that proper design and integration are far more important than just slapping a camera above a point of sale area.
Todd Brown is the president of Affinitech, Inc. He can be reached at ToddB@affinitechinc.com or 952.697.2136.
The Cincinnati Insurance Company
Here are three tips for protecting your business from liability:
1. Create emergency plans and protocols. Be proactive: create emergency plans and train your staff to follow them. Continually identify and respond to potential risks and hazards to help avoid a loss or reduce the severity of one. Update your plans regularly. Discuss and practice them in staff meetings and orientations. Prior practice, in real time, helps your staff respond to fire, weather or intruder emergencies. It helps them overcome the natural level of anxiety by creating more clarity and allowing them to meet the task at hand during a true emergency.
2. Involve other entities in your risk management plan. Use the resources of your insurance agent and carrier, as well as local fire and emergency medical personnel. Read industry publications and attend trade shows to stay up-to-date with new concepts and ideas in order to help protect your members and facility. Work with an attorney who specializes in health and fitness and is familiar with the case law in your state. Join local, regional or national organizations that specialize in disaster recovery planning and emergency preparedness to increase the knowledge and preparedness of your team.
3. Work with your agent to understand your policy. Pay attention to the wording and consider any exclusions or language that disallows coverage for risks associated with your operations. Your agent can review your current policy and help you compare policies to make sure you are best covered for the price.
I recommend proper background checks for all employees. Typically, clubs may only perform a background check for those working with children. All staff members have access to children in the facility, so it’s best to screen the entire staff. Make informed hiring decisions based on the results of the background checks and other employment screening information such as applications, interviews and references.
How often should clubs look over their insurance policy and risk management procedures? There are two times clubs should do this.
Annually: with your agent, review your operation and policy terms and conditions. This way, your agent better understands your operation and can suggest beneficial updates or additions to your policy, such as adding cyber liability. Also, annually evaluate the need to implement additional risk management procedures and review your emergency response plans.
Quarterly: with your risk management team, involve outside partners in meetings and address specific concerns such as summer swimming pools and camps.
Brian Rawlings is the program manager of fitness and recreation for The Cincinnati Insurance Company. He can be reached at email@example.com or 513.603.5461.