Fitness Australia provides policies and guidelines to help registered fitness industry professionals to maintain best practice standards

Fitness facilities are governed by a complex web of legislation (Commonwealth, State and Territory), common law and State and Territory-based fitness industry codes (some of which are mandatory and have legal status as statutory instruments, and some of which are not).

Liability in the legal sense is an inclusive term that describes the state of potentially or actually being subject to a legal obligation.

Generally speaking, a failure by fitness facilities or fitness instructors to comply with reasonable and acceptable industry standards of service provision can give rise to legal liability in negligence to compensate for personal injuries that have been caused by the failure.

Liability

 

Liability arises from failure to take reasonable care. All fitness professionals have a ‘duty of care’ to their clients when providing instruction or advice, to ensure that reasonable steps are taken so that harm that could reasonably be expected to occur is avoided. Fitness Australia provides policies and guidelines to help registered fitness industry professionals to maintain best practice standards.  As a fitness industry professional, the potential implications of the terms of ‘liability’ and ‘duty of care’ are important to consider when it comes to risk management. Fitness Australia’s website states, “If a Registered Exercise Professional is alleged to have breached their duty of care, we will examine their compliance with our standards and guidelines”.

Examples of how legal liability may apply:
A fitness instructor conducts a group aerobics exercise on a hardwood gymnasium floor. Although the clients are provided with exercise mats, sweat nevertheless gets on the floor. The instructor notices, but does not stop the session to wipe up the sweat. A client slips and falls, injuring her back. In this instance, both the instructor and the facility could be legally liable for the injury.

A personal trainer signs up a new client for an intensive strength-conditioning course. During a session, the client advises the instructor that the weight being used is too heavy. The instructor tells the client to push through the pain. The client suffers a serious muscle injury and sues.

Several Australian insurance companies offer policies covering fitness industry professionals. Third party liability insurance is a way to minimise the financial impact on you as a provider of fitness services, should you be found liable in a negligence claim or under contract.  While it is important to have third party liability insurance in place—in some instances it is required—insurance is a part of, and not a substitute for, an overall risk management strategy.

For more information on liability, see pages 69-118 of ‘Exercise Safe; The Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management Manual’. http://www.fitnessriskmanagement.com.au/pdf/The-Australian-Fitness-Industry-Risk-Management-Manual.pdf