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A Proactive Approach to Risk Management


Safety practices and protocols should be proactive, not reactive, in order to effectively mitigate risk. And since the best way to cement the importance of safety precautions is to involve people — staff and members alike — regular drills, education and diligent enforcing of rules are all proactive steps that create a culture of risk management.

“Getting more and more people involved and knowledgeable about the steps we take to mitigate risk allows them to take more pride in the procedures and helps them understand the necessity,” said Marco Fiorini, the operations manager at the Cincinnati Sports Club. “Regular drilling of policies with employees also establishes the culture of risk management.”

It’s a no-brainer that employees should be held to a certain standard for safety policies. However, as O2 Fitness has discovered, members are also largely responsible for good risk management.

“The key to creating a successful risk management culture is our people, both team members and members,” said Shawn Stewart, the COO of O2 Fitness. “It is their attitude, engagement and actions that will determine the success of our risk management culture.”

In fact, according to Stewart, involvement from everyone is essential. “Creating a culture that values risk management and safety includes the participation of all team members for their thoughts, ideas, observations, and most importantly, their buy-in,” he said. “You can’t keep members and team members safe without their commitment.”

O2 Fitness and the Cincinnati Sports Club have each gotten buy-in from staff and members, and created cultures of risk management in their clubs. The following are some of their best practices for mitigating risk. 

O2 Fitness

“For us, it begins with our emergency action protocol (EAP),” said Stewart. “It includes basic policies and procedures, instructions on evacuating the building, when to notify police of a problem, and detailing what employees are responsible for in the event of an incident.”

And proper education and training is the key to empowering staff to put the EAP into action when needed. “All team members know where the EAP is kept, and we regularly train, coach and drill our teams on these procedures,” added Stewart.

To ensure his staff is never out of practice, Stewart frequently has employees complete facility walkthroughs and review policies on risk management.

“We train team members to recognize potential hazards, through facility walkthroughs,” said Stewart. “The walkthrough includes every room in the facility, including outside areas.”

During walkthroughs, Stewart has his staff watch closely for tripping hazards, weights left off the rack or in walkways, loose cords, and wet surfaces or spills. “In addition, we require that all team members are CPR and first-aid certified, and more importantly, that they keep these certifications up-to-date,” he said.

To truly cement the idea of gym safety in members, O2 Fitness makes it a point to properly educate customers on best practices for — and the importance of — safety in a fitness facility. “This begins with a proper introduction to the gym, and our safety policies and procedures,” said Stewart. “Member education includes how to properly protect your belongings in the locker rooms to avoid theft, warm up and cool down pre and post-exercise, and maintaining proper form when using weights and cardio equipment.”

To help mitigate the risk of health-related emergencies, Stewart instructs his team members to look out for signs of exercisers pushing themselves too hard.

“Many individuals can push themselves past their limit,” said Stewart. “Team members are taught to look for warning signs that someone’s health could be in danger, like dizziness, pain and high levels of discomfort, and changes in facial expression and color.”

The O2 Fitness staff also maintains a safe workout environment by educating members on exercising safely. “Our team also helps prevent injuries by assisting members immediately if they notice improper use of equipment and showing them the correct form,” he said.

Most importantly, the staff immediately reviews every incident, so those involved can learn from the experience.

“A big part of creating our culture is debriefing after every emergency, injury or issue we have to deal with,” said Stewart. “We gather everyone involved to discuss what went well, what could have been improved, or whether there were any communication gaps, lack of tools and resources. Then we add these to our training and coaching to be better prepared next time.”

Cincinnati Sports Club

Mitigating risks is of the utmost importance at the Cincinnati Sports Club, and as a result, its EAP is very thorough.

“The EAP contains protocols for: medical emergencies, missing children, power outages, loss of water pressure, severe weather, inclement weather as it pertains to outdoor activities, drowning, fire alarms, a crisis communication plan, and an active shooter scenario,” said Fiorini.

On an annual basis, the club’s staff undergoes regular drills for these protocols. “We hold two annual fire drills and one annual active shooter drill,” said Fiorini. “We also do regular missing child drills, medical emergency drills and tornado drills.”

But beyond simply making the facility safer, it’s important for the club’s staff to take applicable lessons home after training. When safety procedures mean more to staff on a personal level, they’re more likely to value them in the club setting.

“When we do training and education with our team about risk management, we also try to communicate to them how these tools and trainings could be useful in their day-to-day lives,” shared Fiorini.

Diligent internet security is a particular point of interest for Fiorini. “A good example would be cyber security — we want our employees to use the tips they learn here in their personal lives, because it is likely that it will help them at some point,” he said. “We do regular phishing emails for all staff with a club email address, and go over the pass/fail results as a group — not to punish, but we have a little fun with the ones who don’t pass.”

To maintain a safe environment for members, the Cincinnati Sports Club is equipped with the best features and protocols for a variety of emergencies.

“Our building has a sprinkler system and 30 cameras, as well as two license plate cameras and three cameras that feed directly into a local police station,” said Fiorini. “We have constant access control and gatekeeping while open, and at the outdoor pool we inspect all bags for glass and alcohol. We have individual and group waivers for non-members, and a photo ID is required for them.”

And the club is always prepared for severe weather. “Our outdoor pool umbrellas are taken down during high winds and signs are put out,” said Fiorini. “Every time it rains or the ground outside is wet, we put out waterhog mats at our entryways so slips and falls are mitigated.”

Education is crucial to a risk management culture, so every employee is trained to be CPR and AED-certified, and tested on their familiarity with the EAP. “We are currently working on a classroom style training session on every policy that is contained in our EAP,” said Fiorini. 

The Cincinnati Sports Club also partners with local organizations to aid in safety education and certification training.

“Our local fire department holds all of our CPR certifications, and our risk management director also works part time at the local fire department,” said Fiorini. “Local police and fire receive a membership discount, and we send representatives and provide raffle items to annual fundraisers and raffles the local police do.”

A culture of risk management is a complete team effort, so it takes more than just a well-educated staff to make the club safer. The Cincinnati Sports Club actively educates members on safety protocols, as well as basic best practices.

“We also put notices up after Thanksgiving letting members know that car break-ins increase during the holidays, and giving them tips to protect themselves,” said Fiorini. “Our fire drills are also aimed to educate members about which exits they should use in a fire, and most of our members participate.”

With the right education and instruction, your members and staff will be more mindful of the part they play in gym safety, and a culture of risk management will be cemented in your club. 

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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