New member orientations go beyond good customer service. They may also help you avoid costly claims at your club.
Health clubs commonly see an uptick in memberships during the early months of the year, which often results in crowded gyms. It’s important any time of year for new members to receive orientation on the club’s environment, but it may be especially helpful during busier months. New member orientations serve several purposes, including familiarizing members with equipment use and facility layout, introducing gym policies and rules, providing key club contact information for any problems, determining fitness goals, getting to know members on a personal level, and explaining and obtaining valid liability waiver agreements.
When a fitness center develops a consistent member orientation program and accurately documents the process, they might have a better chance at success in avoiding costly claims against the club. Each item referenced above plays an important part in helping clients avoid injury and protecting club owners from frivolous claims.
Club staff should take the time to show new members the equipment they will be using, as well as the layout of the gym. Equipment changes over the years, making it important for clubs to familiarize their members with their actual equipment, leaving little to chance.
Trip and fall accidents are common in free weight areas. Informing members of gym rules, such as re-racking weights, will go a long way toward reducing these accidents.
Members who have been introduced to club owners and management will feel valued by their club. Having an employee who a member can go to with concerns may serve to keep the concerns from becoming something much bigger, such as a lawsuit.
Clubs are more likely to improve retention and provide a better experience if it understands the members’ goals when they join. This also allows a club to show fitness progress toward those goals over time.
In states where liability waivers are allowed as part of gym membership contracts, they can be a very effective tool in controlling claims against a club. New member orientations provide an excellent opportunity to explain waiver agreements and get signatures on the agreements. Laws vary from state to state when it comes to an enforceable liability waiver agreement. Therefore, when developing these agreements, it is important to seek legal counsel with experience in the liability waiver laws of your state.
Orientations should be well documented in your members’ files, whether you keep paper files or electronic files. Signed contracts and separate liability waiver agreements, in addition to signed acknowledgement of the club’s policies, rules and regulations, will go far toward protecting your business in the event of a claim.
When new member orientations are done properly, it may serve to benefit your club well into the future of your operations. If you don’t conduct orientations or they are lacking in effectiveness and documentation, you may be hurting your business and your chances of successfully defending against potential claims.
Bill Coons is a senior loss control specialist for Markel Speciality. For more information visit markelhealthclub.com.