In Australia over 3 million people participate in the fitness industry. Each of these participants is exposed to some level of risk or uncertainty. In Australia over 3 million people participate in the fitness industry. Each of these participants is exposed to some level of risk or uncertainty. As a professional, working in the fitness industry there is a responsibility to understand and help minimise these risks.
‘Risk’ may sound daunting, but it is neither positive nor negative, it simply occurs because someone or something is trying to achieve an objective. For instance, when a person is being trained on a treadmill by a fitness instructor, the client is exposed to a number of risks, including the risk of the treadmill malfunctioning, the skill of the trainer and their instruction, the user’s behaviour or technique, and the behaviour of other clients exercising on equipment nearby. These risks are simply present due to the objective of engaging in a fitness activity. Fitness businesses, fitness professionals and clients each have a role to play in determining acceptable levels of risk in order to achieve particular objectives.
‘Managing risk’ means identifying and appreciating risks in your fitness environment and making modifications to your work, environment and organisation to remove risks or reduce risks to acceptable levels. This is important, as there are legal ramifications for failure to do so as seen in section 17 and 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, which can be found here.
Risk management not only involves identification of risks and taking steps to eliminate or reduce those risks in order to prevent negative consequences, but it involves efforts to transfer those risks that cannot be eliminated or reduced through various mechanisms such as through the use of waivers or liability insurance. Additionally, risk management is an ongoing and fluid process that involves constant monitoring and review to ensure continual improvement, as illustrated in the following diagram:
The use of exclusion clauses in contracts can limit the liability of the corporation or individual worker, but does not reduce the risk to clients. Use of these clauses should not be relied upon as a sole risk management strategy as they do not prevent injuries and defending them in court can be more costly and time consuming than implementing prevention strategies.
There are various practical approaches that have been documented to help an organisation assess risk. Risk Logic and Fitness Australia have developed a risk rating table so that risks can be located and addressed, with the objective of dealing with risks in order of priority. The risk rating table can be found in ‘A Work Health and Safety Guide for Fitness Businesses’ here.
Risk should be managed not only because you aim to act dutifully to minimise the occurrence of incidents in your environment, but also because there is a legal requirement to do so. Effective risk management creates a safer environment for everyone in the industry, an improved ability to meet clients’ needs, long term cost saving, increased participation and an improved image of the facility or operator.
For more information on risk management, see pages 23-48 of ‘Exercise Safe; The Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management Manual’.