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Fitness Center Use

Many faith based organizations promote wellness in a variety of ways such as health screenings and fitness incentives. Although this may be a positive benefit for staff and church members and a way to encourage healthy lifestyles, there are consequences to consider and proactive risk management strategies that should be considered.

Possible benefits of facility fitness areas include: 

  • Improved health and fitness for church members and staff. 
  • Community building, increased morale, camaraderie, fun and convenience.
  • Staff and membership retention.

Potential risks of allowing fitness facility use by employees include:  

  • Injuries from unsafe use.
  • A potential for an increase in harassment or other claims and lawsuits due to increased use of the facilities.
  • Inadequate supervision of fitness center users.

Risk Reduction Considerations

  • Establish clear procedures that address: 
  • Hours of use.
  • Staffing, if applicable.
  • Pre-approval/registration process, including a signed waiver that clearly states fitness center users take personal responsibility for any injuries.
  • Fitness center rules - provide all users with a copy rules upon registration and on an annual basis, and have them sign off that they received a copy.
  • Requiring approval of medical doctor for use of the center by anyone over the age of 50.
  • Restrict use of weight machines and free weights by anyone under the age of 16; require parental approval for anyone ages 16 – 18.
  • Instructions for appropriate use of room and each piece of equipment.
  • Cleaning of equipment, including frequency and type of cleaning agent.
  • Recommendation to utilize a “buddy system” when accessing fitness center and equipment, if staff is not present.
  • What to do in the event of a medical emergency.
  • Periodic checks of the fitness center and any changing rooms to make sure there is no delay in response should someone need assistance when utilizing the fitness center alone.
  • Consideration to place a portable “panic” button in the center in case assistance is needed in an emergency.
  • Consideration for supplying an automatic external defibrillator available for use in the fitness center.
  • Posting of emergency numbers and access to a telephone.

Conclusion

While you may want to encourage congregation members and staff to keep fit, it’s important for each faith-based organization to determine if the benefits are worth the risk before initiating a fitness center.