Being prepared for medical emergencies is crucial in reducing risk and potential liability

There is both a professional and legal need to have medical emergency plans in place. Types of medical emergencies include:
  • Health risks such as medical conditions which lead to cardiac arrest for example, and
  • Injury risks such as situations or conditions which lead to back injuries, bone fractures, tissue damage etc.
Fitness business and professionals have a legal obligation to plan for and provide appropriate emergency care when these situations occur.

A well thought out, documented, medical emergency action plan (EAP) that considers all legally foreseeable medical emergencies and is well communicated to facility personnel, is critically important to managing risk.

Automated external defibrillators (AED’s)
Scientific evidence shows an increased survival rate for individuals who receive electrical defibrillation in the first few minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).  Automated External defibrillator (AED) training is now common during first-aid/CPR training.  There are no laws in Australia requiring fitness centres to install AEDs. However, several international and professional organisations have ‘strongly encouraged’ larger centres to install AEDs.  AED placement in a fitness centre is particularly important if the clientele are older or have a ‘high-risk’ profile, for example, clients with cardiovascular or respiratory disease. In health/fitness facilities, where staff members have been recruited to use an AED, managers must ensure that their staff have received adequate training from accredited education providers in order to show good practice in case of an emergency situation.


The St John’s Ambulance offers an easy guide to administering first aid, involving the acronym DRSABCD (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR and Defibrillation). In an event of an emergency they recommend calling triple zero (000) for an ambulance.  The DRSABCD action plan poster can be found at

Additionally, the First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice provides a variety of practical information and can be viewed at h

Being prepared for medical emergencies is crucial in reducing risk and potential liability. Your facility should have a well thought out, medical emergency action plan, identifying foreseeable emergencies and how to approach such emergencies. These plans should be tailored to your facility and programs offered by your facility.

For more information on emergencies, see pages 127-132 of ‘Exercise Safe; The Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management Manual’.