Ask an Expert: Eric Hoffman on Reducing Liability

Eric Hoffman

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Eric Hoffman, the director of corporate insurance and risk management at Xsport Fitness, about reducing liability.

Not many clubs have a director of corporate insurance and risk management role. What are your main responsibilities and duties?

EH: I am in charge of purchasing all of our insurance, overseeing claim management and safety. The main goal of my job is to ensure our members, guests and employees are in a safe environment when they come to our gyms. A large part of accomplishing that goal is by creating policies and procedures for our staff to follow. I visit all of our gyms throughout the year to ensure these policies and procedures are being followed and the gym is being maintained to a high standard.

Do you think it’s important for clubs to have someone in charge of risk management, especially as additional locations are added?

EH: Yes. As your business grows, so does your exposure. More bodies through the door means more potential for an incident to occur. In addition to the increase in exposure, businesses should aim to be uniform at all locations. Sometimes employees may have to go to another location — the policies and procedures should remain consistent at all of them.

Why should risk management be a top priority for health clubs?

EH: Risk management is important in any business. However, health clubs are possibly more susceptible to incidents than most other businesses. People are there to exercise and push themselves out of their comfort zone. They’re jumping, running, lifting, climbing, which in and of itself, is increasing the odds of an incident occurring. Anything we can do to help bring that risk back down is a bonus. Not only will this help in keeping our members, guests and employees safe, but it will also help to reduce our insurance costs. 

How does XSport create a culture of safety at its clubs?

EH: Communication across all departments. Creating a policy or procedure for employees to follow and just sending it out will do nothing. You have to be able to articulate to your staff “why.” If everyone understands why we do things and what the end goal is, their work will be more effective.

What should clubs look for in an insurance partner?

EH: It is important to look for an insurance partner that is going to be involved. It always helps to have an extra set of eyes on things. Our insurance will occasionally visit gyms with me. They may point something out that I wasn’t looking for or missed. However, once it’s pointed out, we won’t miss it again.

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