It’s 6:15 on a busy weeknight with the New Year’s resolution crush in full force. You’ve beefed up staff for all the new customers and one of those fresh faces is signing up a new member. They give them the tour, they explain the membership options, they gather all the pertinent bank information to process their monthly dues and they give the happy new member their shiny key fob to sign in and their welcome t-shirt … size L. They’ve checked all the boxes … or have they?
The missing piece in this, seemingly regular transaction, could be the most important – the waiver!
Having each and every member complete a waiver is a critical part of protecting your business and your assets. It’s the first step and very possibly the most important.
Nearly all states recognize waivers and hold harmless agreements in some shape and form. In laymen’s terms, a waiver exonerates the gym including its owners from being held accountable for injuries that occur during a member’s utilization of the gym, its equipment and services. Here are some key points to consider as you implement waiver practices in your club:
A. Different states = different fates
Some states hold up waivers in almost all cases. Others require very specific wording. Additionally, there are states with various jurisdictional case histories throughout different pockets of the state.
B. Seek counsel
All of this makes it very important that a health club both has its initial waivers developed and then reviewed (minimum every 2 years) by an attorney familiar with and who keeps abreast of the specific state statutes and case laws.
C. Members and guests
Many clubs find it fairly easy to implement a process whereby staff members have a waiver completed at the time of new member registration. However, most clubs have policies where members can bring a guest a certain amount of times; or perhaps where a prospective member can try the gym a few times before joining. These guests also need to complete a waiver. In many instances they are more likely to get injured as they are unfamiliar with the set up of the gym and the equipment etc.
D. Layering your Protection
An additional recommended waiver practice is layering your protection. Many attorneys will recommend utilizing an additional waiver for risks that may be a bit more inherently dangerous, such as a rock climbing wall, or for activities that involve children, such as a day care. Another activity that may require layering could be something that is outside the scope of day to day activities, such as an outdoor cycling class.
E. Helpful Tips
Waivers can come in different shapes and sizes. For a child watch operation for instance, it may be wording on top of the sign-in sheet that requires a parent to initial each time as part of that process. In general, a couple of helpful hints may include:
- Placing a general health club waiver on a separate sheet of paper; apart from the general membership information etc.
- Using a clear heading (Member Waiver and Hold Harmless Agreement) in a larger-sized font (perhaps 14 or larger)
- Using electronic waiver systems provided by many vendors or scan and store waivers in a cloud-based system for secure storage capabilities
A good waiver can go a long way in protecting your members, your assets and business interests and provide a very transparent and open environment for your members.
Brian Rawlings is Practice Leader for Venture Programs and has spent his career working in fitness and insurance. At Venture, Rawlings is leading the new FITLIFE™ program, which insures fitness, wellness and spa facilities. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.