Gyms, sports centres and other leisure facilities have been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak due to the nature of the transmission of the virus and the close contact and equipment sharing that typically takes place.
As sporting and leisure venues prepare to reopen, and personal trainers and fitness instructors return to face-to-face training, it’s important to be aware of the safety measures that have been both legislated for and recommended.
Here’s an overview of measures relating to social distancing, ventilation, cleaning, PPE and workforce management.
All activities should be designed to allow social distancing and to limit the number of people staff and public have contact with. Workers should continue to abide by social distancing in staff areas such as canteens.
Ways to help prevent transmission include:
- Providing hand washing/sanitising facilities and encouraging their use
- Frequent surface cleaning
- Adding screens and barriers
- Using floor markings to designate one-way systems and social distancing measures
- Promoting contactless payment and entry to facilities
- Reducing staff meetings or holding them online, outdoors or in larger spaces
- Staggering staff working hours and break times
For fitness classes and other sporting activities, venues could look at:
- Running shorter classes/activities
- Limiting class numbers to allow for social distancing
- Spacing out equipment
Effective ventilation is vital for reducing Covid transmission, especially if high-intensity exercise is taking place, for example in an aerobics or spin class.
Options for improving ventilation include:
- Ensuring air is 100% fresh, rather than recirculated
- Opening dampers and running fans on full speed
- Keeping ventilation on all the time
- Changing filters more frequently
More information can be found in the Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance.
As well as increased cleaning of floors, surfaces, workspaces, handrails and facilities, special attention should be given to the fact that gyms provide shared equipment, eg machines, free weights, mats, balancing balls.
These should all be regularly cleaned and the public should have access to sprays and cloths, plus signage with instructions for cleaning equipment.
Doors and handles should also be regularly cleaned, with the option of propping doors open to increase ventilation and reduce contact.
Customers should be encouraged to arrive in fitness gear and to shower at home.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and face coverings
PPE and face coverings should not be used to replace social distancing measures and are not practical when exercising as they can limit the ability to breathe efficiently.
Current government guidance says that: ‘There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.’
If face coverings are used – for example, if a member of staff travels into work on public transport where face masks are mandatory – they should follow guidelines, including avoiding touching the face or covering, washing hands after removing it and washing the mask or disposing of it safely after use.
There are several ways that sporting and leisure facilities can improve safety for staff, as outlined above, but also through the way their working patterns are managed.
This could include:
- Organising workers into groups for shifts so they come into contact with fewer work colleagues
- Reducing the number of contract workers brought into the building
- Reducing the need to hand each other equipment, for example by using drop off points
- Keeping records of staff shifts to give to NHS Test and Trace if required
The full government guidelines for sports facilities in England can be found online and you should also check for any local restrictions that might take precedence over national regulations, for example, a local lockdown to deal with a cluster outbreak.