How Business Liability Applies At The Gym
Back in June or July of 2012 I started exercising. I purchased a membership to a local gym, a 24-hour gym at that. As I walk in those doors I often wonder how expensive their insurance must be. Think about all that could go wrong: there's weights, tanning beds, large mirrors on the walls - what if a weight machine fell over? That could happen. What if I dropped a weight on someone's foot? Or even my own? Who's responsible?
There are so many things that could go wrong in a gym, let alone a 24-hour gym. It's important that we recognize the typical new gym member. Let's call him Joe:
he's out of shape
his muscles are weak
his ego is high
and he's 10 ft tall & bullet proof
He's not about to look like he really feels. Not with the other guys working out along side him. They're buff. They know the different exercises. They have a routine.
Joe has a routine, it's called willy-nilly. He'll work his back, biceps, and chest all in the same day, all in the same hour. He'll go from one machine to the next with no correlation.
Not only is he dangerous to himself, he's dangerous to others in the gym. He makes the mistake most of us pray we never make - he bumped into a guy doing the bench press.
These are things we must think of as business owners. Someone is responsible for his actions. And yes, he may have some blame to carry, but he's not the business owner. He didn't approve his membership. He didn't give himself 24-hour access.
Last I checked, gyms didn't pre-qualify their potential members. They're looking for anyone who will pay.
Sign here, give me your money, here's complete access to anything, anytime.
The owner is responsible. They're responsible if a machine breaks and hurts someone, regardless of how much weight is on it. Who supplied all that weight? Who supplied the machine?
They are responsible for almost anything that goes wrong within the gym walls.
Recently, at my gym, the front door was broken. It didn't have that soft spring-loaded return that helped it close after being opened. No. It slam shut the minute you let go. I watched it hit people in their backside, or clip their heels. It would slam so hard I was concerned the glass would break.
8-12 Silver Sneaker folks walk through that door each morning. They're older, and no longer have the reflexes they were once used to. That door hits them... if it clips the heel's of an elderly woman, Houston's gonna have a problem.
It took several weeks for that door to be repaired. Not sure why, maybe scheduling was an issue. Regardless, their temporary fix was less than encouraging, especially to an insurance agent like myself:
"Enter at your own risk"
Let me be the first to tell you, customers never enter a business, a commercial location, at their own risk. Absolutely not! That's why we have business liability insurance.
The sign should have said Enter At Our Liability, Our Risk.
Maybe it was a bluff. Something to make us think of safety. Well, I think differently than most business owners. I see customers as assets, and I treat them accordingly.
My sign would have said:
Please Enter Carefully, Door Is Broken, Repair Is Scheduled. My Apologies. signed - Owner, Nick Gann
Regardless of what it says, the owner is still responsible, not the customer. The customer never enters a business at their own risk. Yes, they may place themselves in harms way, they may even deal with an injury, but they're rarely responsible for the incident.
Again, that's why we have business liability insurance. That's also why we have liability coverage on our homeowners insurance. Friends and visitors don't enter your home at their own risk. Ever.
Business owners need to recognize their liabilities. Recognize what can be detrimental to their operation. A good commercial insurance policy will have your back. And when the door is broken, it'll have your customer's backs.