Every business should take measures to protect the health and safety of their employees, customers and suppliers – and the fitness industry is no exception.
Whether you work as a personal trainer or fitness instructor, run a gym or a sports centre, or operate in any other areas of fitness and sport, you should be aware of the potential health and safety hazards and risks, along with the government’s Health and Safety Executive’s Five Steps to Risk Assessment.
Anyone studying for a Level 2 Certificate in Gym Instructing qualification will learn about potential hazards and how to assess risk.
Prevention is better than cure
The fitness industry presents a wide range of potential risks and hazards, and those working in this environment should have systems in place to prevent injuries, along with policies and procedures to deal with any emergencies that might arise.
What is the difference between a hazard and a risk?
A hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm. In fitness and sport, this could include:
- Dumbbells or other heavy weights
- Slippery floors, eg around a swimming pool, in a shower room, or where a floor has been cleaned or a drink spilt
- Trip hazards, such as mats, gym bags or trailing wires
A risk is the level of likelihood that someone might be caused harm by a hazard, and the level of harm it might cause, for example:
- A sprain, strain or bone break
- A burn or electrocution
- A cut, wound or trauma
Some hazards and risks may be completely or partially outside the influence of the gym owner, for example a customer experiencing a medical emergency such as:
- Asthma attack
- Hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia – often associated with diabetes
- Heart attack
- Fainting or dizzy spell
This might be caused by a known pre-existing condition, which is why it’s important for personal trainers to carry out a full assessment with new customers and to keep abreast of any change to the health and fitness of existing customers.
Injury and harm can also be avoided or minimised by training staff to recognise and react swiftly and appropriately when certain medical conditions present themselves.
What is a RAG rating?
RAG stands for red, amber, green and refers to a traffic light system of measuring whether a situation is high, medium or low risk and also whether it might result in minor, medium or major injury.
A situation that is considered “green” or low risk, so not very likely to happen, could nonetheless result in a “red” situation. An example of this would be a customer being electrocuted while using running machine.
What are the five stages of risk assessment
These five stages of risk assessment are:
Stage 1: Identify the hazards
Stage 2: Work out who might be harmed and how
Stage 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Step 4: Record and implement your significant findings
Step 5: Regularly review your risk assessment and update it as necessary
Taking these in turn:
Stage 1: Identify the hazards – take a walk around the gym or sports centre and make a list of all potential hazards. Check manufacturers’ instructions for gym equipment and think about less obvious hazards, such as damaging exposure to chemicals or high levels of noise. It can also help to look back on your health and safety records to see which issues have arisen in the past.
Stage 2: Work out who might be harmed and how – don’t forget to include suppliers and contractors such as maintenance workers, as well as staff and customers.
Stage 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – using the RAG traffic light ratings or a similar system, write down the level of risk for each situation and how likely it is to happen. Are there any changes you can make to prevent the risk entirely? For example, making it mandatory for customers to use lockers rather than bringing gym bags into a studio as a potential trip hazard.
Step 4: Record and implement your significant findings – list all hazards and how they might affect people, then list the controls you have put in place to eliminate or minimise the risk. The government has created a Risk Assessment Template to help you set out your findings.
Step 5: Regularly review your risk assessment – check through your risk assessment on a regular basis and update it as necessary. Situations can change, for example you might have new machinery in the gym or have started classes for a group with specific needs, such as older clients or pre- and post-natal classes. Look at situations that have arisen since the risk assessment was created – accidents, injuries, near misses – and update your risk assessment to include them.
You can find more information in the government’s Health and Safety Executive document: Risk assessment: A brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace.