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Industry Standards… ‘Wait, What?’


The primary focus of standards in the fitness industry has revolved around training. There are organizations that certify and teach best practices for the betterment of the industry. But beyond sports medicine, these have been some of the few standards the fitness industry has had.

Now there is an attempt to standardize equipment construction through ASTM committee F08. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety requested that ASTM Committee F08 on Sports Equipment and Facilities form a subcommittee devoted to fitness products. The committee’s primary focus is safety and testing prior to consumer use.

Why are standards created? Governing bodies seek industry control, revenue, industry growth, environmental friendliness and a host of other things that some believe can increase overhead and reduce profits for club owners.

However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, best practices in operational standards should increase the club owner’s bottom line. Standards should be created to either duplicate success or shift liability.

Duplicating success is fairly straight forward. Following are some processes and procedures that should be recognized by vendors and ultimately save owners money.

The risks of operating a health club are plenty. The financial risks outweigh most, but close behind is the risk of being liable for a member’s injury. A brief look at a usual slip-and-fall scenario highlights the problems.

Owner pays a monthly premium for liability coverage (market rate).

Owner has leased a treadmill, still under warranty.

Member is injured due to treadmill malfunction (deck falls during incline, trips on separated belt, magnetic stop inoperable, etc.).

Member talks to front desk and all seems OK.

Attorney contacts club.

Attorney contacts manufacturer.

Manufacturer contacts club and wants proof of proper maintenance.

Insurance wants proof of maintenance and incident file.

Club has no documentation because they assumed “warranty” covered most maintenance and the member left walking, so the incident wasn’t documented.


Standards in club operations will dramatically reduce the likelihood of this scenario. This is only half the picture. Standards, if agreed to and developed by all stakeholders, should also reduce cost. Discounts are the norm in most industries for adhering to standardization based on best practices.

For example, automobile insurers give discounts for safe driving records. Home owner insurers provide discounts for fire and theft protection. Commercial liability insurers should also provide club owners with discounts for operating properly and documenting the variables that surface in risk scenarios. In addition, equipment manufactures should consider incentives for owners that operate with best practices in managing maintenance of fitness equipment and the people involved in the equipment.

If equipment owners neglect products that are under warranty it will ultimately shift costs back to the consumer. The automotive industry will only warranty vehicles that have a maintenance record. The knee jerk reaction shouldn’t be to shift liability by catching clubs that are procedurally deficient. The industry needs standards in the repair and maintenance arena for the betterment of us all.


Tom Strickland is the founder and CEO of Fitness EMS. He can be reached at 770.807.3026 or tstrickland@fitnessems.com. For more information visit fitnessems.com.


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