January 2020

New year, new you: Lawyer outlines what to look out for to avoid injury at the gym

Unsurprisingly gym memberships are set to surge now we are in the New Year as many Brits look to shift the Christmas weight and start 2020 on a healthier note. With 12% of new gym members signing up in January, it is no surprise that the top New Year's resolutions surround getting fit. But a leading lawyer has urged those undertaking new fitness regimes to take precautions to prevent themselves from injury.

Louise Plant heads up the personal injury department at Ipswich based law firm Prettys, and has listed a number of ways in which people can help to keep themselves injury free when working out.
“When you join a gym or undertake a new fitness regime, you will normally sign a waiver which states that you are accepting that there may be a risk to your health in undertaking exercise, and that you take responsibility for that risk. Unless a gym or fitness provider has done something particularly wrong (such as supplied defective equipment that they knew was defective), that risk has to be accepted and fault will not land at their door should you sustain an injury” she said.
“You can’t make a claim if you’ve simply overdone it due to this waiver. People need to be responsible for themselves, but the gym is still required to follow certain protocols.
“I would expect all gyms or fitness providers to have robust risk assessments in place to flag up potential hazards that may be relevant to the environment and their clients. Once a hazard has been identified, the gym or fitness provider then needs to assess how likely the risk occurring is, and put procedures in place that are complied with to reduce that risk to the lowest level possible.” she said.
There are around 9.7 million gym members in the UK with almost half of them injuring themselves in the process.
With this in mind Louise has suggested a number of things to be aware of, in particular when joining a gym or taking up a new fitness regime for the first time, or after a long period of time when things may be more unfamiliar…
Be aware and cater to your own levels of fitness and capability
If you have any concerns that what you are about to do may be beyond your capabilities or you may have a heightened risk of injury because of a pre-existing condition or health restriction, seek advice from your GP before starting.
As stated above, no gym or fitness provider can be held at fault for an injury sustained in the general course of undertaking exercise which carries a risk to even the fittest of people, let alone to someone who may have an underlying condition, or for various reasons may be more susceptible to injury.
Check that you know how to operate and ensure that the equipment you are using isn’t faulty
Gyms / fitness providers have a duty to maintain and inspect equipment to make sure it is not defective in any way and is in good working order. If a person suffers an injury as a result of defective equipment that was not subject to reasonable checks and inspections, then they may be found at fault for any injury caused.
The same principle applies to the cleaning of the equipment. For example, if gym mats and floors are not being cleaned properly or regularly then there is a higher risk of a slipping hazard being present which could cause injury.
It is worthwhile checking the equipment before use to make sure everything is working as it should be and report any issues to the gym or fitness provider if necessary. After all, it is in everyone’s best interest to be able to enjoy a new or existing fitness regime free from injuries that could have been prevented had simple checks been undertaken.
Be aware of slippery surfaces
There is a higher risk of spillages in a gym as hydration is important during exercise, as well as a risk of sweat pooling during workouts.
Gym and fitness provider staff as well as gym users need to be more vigilant to make sure as far as possible that no surfaces are left in a slippery condition.
Again, gym and fitness providers should have in place a good system of cleaning and inspection to reduce the risk of a slipping hazards to as low as possible in the circumstances.
If slipping hazards do occur, and are either spotted or reported, gym staff and users should know where the cleaning products are and how to deal and clean up the hazard to prevent the risk of injury taking place.
Obey signage and gym rules
This goes without saying, but gym and fitness providers often provide (normally in an induction session or during a class / personal training session) clear instructions as to how to undertake certain exercises and use the equipment provided. This advice and instruction should be followed at all times.
Many gyms and fitness providers also offer shower facilities, swimming pools and saunas. Again, appropriate signage and instruction should be in place to warn of any slippery surfaces or hazards when using these facilities.
If saunas and steam rooms are available, they should provide general guidance on the use of these facilities, and again clients should be aware of their own limitations accordingly.

Overall, whilst gym and fitness providers have a duty to ensure that the facilities and services that they are providing to their clients are in good working order, and that they have reasonable and suitable risk assessments and systems in place that cover the unique risks that are posed in these environments, responsibility for health and safety also squarely sits with the clients for taking care of themselves when working out.