Recreational Use Facilities: Ensuring Equipment Safety


Fitness centers and aquatic services are growing at some healthcare facilities to encourage community engagement and healthy lifestyles. With any activity-centered service, additional risks and exposures for claims follow.


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This case discussion involves a 52-year-old female who was a member of a healthcare-owned fitness gym and an avid stationary cycler. During one of the spin classes offered, the plaintiff fell off the bike when the seat came off the bike. As a result, the plaintiff suffered a broken left hand and wrist. The plaintiff underwent both a closed and later, open reduction of the severely displaced fractures. Although the seat did come off the bike, the seat did not break, and it was intact when it came off the bike. It appears that the seat may not have been tightened correctly by the plaintiff, causing it to come off the bike. The plaintiff alleged the wrong tightening pin was in the bike she used during the class but admitted that she adjusted the seat before the start of the class and did not find any issue with the pin before engaging in utilizing the equipment.

Immediately following the incident, the facility staff sequestered the stationary bike involved, but no photographs were taken of the seat on the floor or the pinning mechanism. The bike was secured during the entire course of the eight-year litigation process. It was made available for inspection by experts for both the plaintiff and the defense. After inspection, the plaintiff alleged that the bike sequestered was not the same bike she fell from during the spin class. There was also a contested issue on if the proper seat adjustment pin was utilized.

During the case proceeding, other concerns surfaced including what type of education on the use of the equipment members were given and how often, along with inspection responsibilities both on a routine basis and following each class offered.


Improving Incident Response Through Evidence Collection

This case was eventually resolved through mediation. There are post-incident lessons to be learned for all healthcare facilities offering such services. If an event occurs, it is important to photograph the equipment before it is moved. Purchase orders and any service or maintenance contracts should be located as they will likely become relevant evidence. Isolating the equipment in a secure location where it cannot be disturbed may be necessary depending on the scenario of the event.


Risk Management Strategies

Whether our healthcare facility fitness centers are open to staff members only or the public, there are proactive guidelines that can be put in place to protect users from exposure to injury/illness.


Fitness Centers

  • Develop a sign-in and out procedure for members coming into the center and for members attending special classes.
  • Post the fitness center rules throughout the facility. Also, develop and post rules for special classes, such as spinning, aerobics, swimming, etc.
  • Conduct periodic documented inspections of equipment. Bio-med, equipment manufacturers, and staff members can conduct these inspections. The frequency of inspections should depend on manufacturers’ recommendations and utilization. All documentation should be kept in an equipment manual.
  • Any equipment with worn or defective parts should be taken out of service, tagged, and placed in a limited access area until repairs or replacement can be done. In the case of a large piece of workout equipment, at minimum, place an “out of service” sign on the machine.
  • Inspections should include pinch points, cables, pulleys, seats, handlebars, chains and chain guards, mats, flooring, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and AEDs.
  • Post signs indicating whether there are fitness instructors or lifeguards on duty.
  • Strategically placed surveillance cameras, capable of recording information for 30 days or longer.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment, restrooms, and showers.

Pools and Showers

  • Follow state or local authority-recommended operator and chemical handling training.
  • Ensure availability of trained operation staff during the weekends or when pools are used most.
  • Maintain free chlorine levels in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Maintain the pH level of the water in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Test pH and disinfectant levels at least twice per day (hourly when in heavy use).
  • Maintain accurate records of disinfectant/pH measurements and maintenance activities.
  • Maintain filtration and recirculation systems according to manufacturer recommendations.
  • Ensure cleanliness and safety of restrooms, showers, and diaper changing areas.
  • Enforce bather load limits.
  • Scrub pool surfaces to remove any slime layer.
  • Drain and replace portions of the water on a weekly to monthly basis, depending on usage and water quality.
  • Treat the pool with a biocidal shock treatment on a daily to weekly basis, depending on water quality and frequency of water replacement.
  • Institute a preventative maintenance program to replace equipment or parts before they fail (e.g., feed pump tubing, injectors, sensor probes).
  • Provide disinfection guidelines for fecal accidents and body fluid spills.
  • Develop employee policies for staff who are ill with RWIs (e.g., diarrhea) and a communication chain for reporting operation problems.
  • Educate pool users about RWIs and appropriate pool use (i.e., no swimming when ill with diarrhea).

Need a Risk Assessment?

For help implementing guidelines or if you would like us to conduct a risk assessment of your fitness center, contact Glenn Eiserloh, CHSP, Sr. Risk Consultant at Glenneiserloh@lhatrustfunds.com or 225-270-8771.


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About the Authors

Jamie Lamb, Director of Claims Operations, LHA Trust Funds

Jamie Lamb began her career in claims in 1997 and has obtained various insurance designations during her career. Her experience includes but is not limited to the management of complex claims in general liability, medical malpractice, excess coverage, and professional liability. As the Director of Claims Operations, Jamie works closely with our members and our internal departments to assist with strategic goals and initiatives. Ms. Lamb attended Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, and Loyola University in New Orleans.


Glenn150

Glenn Eiserloh, Sr. Risk Consultant, LHA Trust Funds

Glenn Eiserloh has more than 17 years of loss prevention and risk management experience. Mr. Eiserloh has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of New Orleans in Finance with a concentration in insurance. He provides consultation services relative to workplace loss prevention, safety training, general liability risk reduction, worksite safety inspections and trend analysis.

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