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Handling an Emergency Incident or Injury in Your Gym or Studio

As fitness professionals, we are well aware of the potential hazards presented by out-of-shape novices working with heavy equipment. In fact, when you think about it, it is surprising how few incidents and injuries occur in the gym environment. However, when an emergency incident does occur, is your staff ready to respond in a professional, organized manner that puts the interest of he injured party first while mitigating the liability of your business?

If you do not have an emergency protocol in place, it is time to put one together. Once you have done so, train every staff member to follow the protocol, even going so far as to run drills for various scenarios. By doing so, you may save lives and greatly reduce your risk of negligence lawsuits.

Anatomy of an Emergency Incident Management Protocol

  1. What to do? First and foremost, each member of your staff should know how to respond to an incident. When handled calmly and confidently, the drama of an incident is reduced, and bystanders have a sense that everything is under control. While the scope of potential incidents is too broad to cover in detail, staff members should know how to locate and operate emergency equipment, including fire extinguishers, AEDs, first aid kits and fire alarms. They should also know how to handle, clean up and dispose of bodily fluids to reduce transfer of blood-borne pathogens. Each staff member should be educated on how to distinguish between a 911 emergency and an incident that can be handled on-site by staff.
  2. What to say? When an incident occurs, staff should remain calm and professional. They should be careful to not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the business or its employees, and to show empathy and compassion to the victim of an incident. No mention of insurance should be made, and disputes and arguments should be avoided at all costs. Staff should not discuss the incident with clients or members.
  3. Who to speak to? A spokesperson should be designated to speak to emergency responders and the media, and staff members should refer questions to that individual. The spokesperson should give an honest account of what happened, without withholding information or embellishing. Opinions and speculations should not be articulated. The news media may try to sensationalize the incident, but they are not entitled to information. It is important for staff to refuse to comment, and to refer questions to the designated spokesperson.
  4. How to follow up? A complete incident report should be filed, noting the date and time of the incident, with a detailed account of what occurred. Witness statements and contact information should be solicited and any relevant documentation, including police or medical reports, should be kept on file. Keeping detailed records shows responsibility and can reduce your appearance of liability if the incident becomes a court case.

A poorly handled incident can negatively effect or even bankrupt your business. Taking time now to implement an emergency plan can save you time, money and legal problems in the future.

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