Keeping your members and property safe during the winter months
Oh, the weather outside is frightful…
We all know the classic Christmas song. A tale of staying warm and safe during the holiday. What a perfect reminder to your team to make sure that your gym members and facility stay well this time of the year. Here we explore some tips for risk mitigation during the winter months.
What are the potential risks?
Winter weather can bring slippery parking lots and entrances into your gym. This can cause an uptick of slip and fall incidents. Members tend to drag snow in on their shoes, and when you add in the typical concerns of wet areas like pools, hot tubs, restrooms and shower areas, the club can be even more slippery than usual.
Salt used to mitigate slip and fall concerns can cause issues with some cardio and strength machines. We’re not looking to pin this on your members, but they tend to wear one pair of shoes into the gym and then get right on the treadmill or strength machine (guilty as charged here!). The salt can build up on or get down into the machines and cause mechanical issues, both immediately and farther down the road as corrosion sets in.
Snow and ice buildup can cause roofs to leak or even collapse, and the weight of the initial ice and snow can also cause issues. Plus, temperatures can be volatile this time of year, especially in certain climates, and radical changes in temperature from day to day could mean that yesterday’s snowfall becomes today’s snowmelt coming through the roof. The resultant leak becomes a potential hazard to equipment and flooring, which can lead to an expensive repair bill.
Aside from snow, harsh cold snaps can cause pipes and sprinkler systems to freeze up and burst overnight or when no one is at the gym. I’ve personally experienced the 4:45 a.m. call that the opener arrived to find frozen water in the entryway and water throughout the building. What a mess!
What are the steps we can take to help mitigate these risks?
Identifying the challenges of the winter season is only the first step. We also need to know what to do when a problem does arise. By taking a few simple steps to prepare, gyms and clubs can quickly respond to nearly any issue:
- Understand your lease as it relates to responsibility for the parking lot and sidewalk clearance. This is important both as it relates to what you and your team are responsible for clearing and maintaining, and also who may be liable in the event of a slip and fall in these areas.
- Make sure proper “wet floor” signs are readily available. Combine this with a routine plan for dry mopping floors and checking/rotating mats that get saturated. Look to keep frequently trafficked areas dry mopped as frequently as possible. Document accordingly and place “wet floor” signs out as a warning. This can help mitigate the potential of a slip or fall.
- Keep up with the preventative maintenance plan on all equipment as well as routine cleaning of your space, equipment and facilities. Make sure you keep a physical record of all maintenance to identify equipment that may need attention to protect yourself in the event of a claim. If you do not document it, you may as well have not done it.
This is an especially crucial time to keep your cleaning protocols in tip-top shape and look for machines and areas that need a deeper clean. Scheduling a routine preventative maintenance cleaning and review during this time can help mitigate damage to the machines and potential injury to members.
Once again, it is imperative to understand your lease agreement regarding leaking and damaged roofs. If you are going to be responsible for damage to the interior of your club then make sure you get, in writing, the landlord’s action plans for addressing roof issues (roof updates, repairs, replacements etc.).
Always maintain the appropriate temperatures within the club, even in non-operating hours. Everyone likes to save a few dollars by turning down that thermostat at night (I am that dad – throw on an extra blanket), but maintaining appropriate temperatures during cold snaps can mitigate the chances of pipes potentially freezing up. You can also leave doors open to susceptible areas where there may not be as many vents or airflow. It may be valuable to have some of your routine inspections completed on fire and sprinkler systems during this time so you may proactively look for any issues.
Gyms thrive on membership drives during the winter months when the New Year’s resolutions are made after the holidays. It’s an important time from a revenue perspective as well as engaging and assisting your members in reaching their goals. So it is especially important to be cognizant of the potential pitfalls of winter weather and take preventative measures to mitigate them.
That way everyone can enjoy the winter wonderland safely – after a good, safe workout!
Brian Rawlings is Practice Leader for FITLIFE, administered by Venture Insurance Programs. Reach him at brawlings@ventureprograms.