Lack of Equipment Inspections and Concern for Client Safety Is a Shortcut to Lawsuits

By Doyice Cotten

Lawsuits against health clubs are abundant – with dozens each year. There are many allegations in such suits ranging from failure to supervise, to employing uncertified personnel, to bad judgment of personal trainers, and many more causes of injury. One of the most frequent causes of injury has two prongs: 1) failure to regularly (as in daily) inspect the premises  and equipment; and 2) failure to maintain and keep equipment in good repair.

The photos in this post illustrate a potential problem that could result in a client injury and in a possible negligence lawsuit. They suggest that the equipment in this particular establishment is NOT inspected on a regular basis. If it is inspected, the equipment is not removed from service until the identified problems are taken care of.

Here are four photos involving a piece of equipment (the StretchTrainer) used for stretching and flexibility. For those not familiar with the machine, the seat is hinged and the patron leans back during many of the stretches. Holding the hand grips allows one to stretch without flipping over backwards. Note the pictures demonstrating stretches in Photo 4.

Photo 1 shows a very minor problem: the rubber grip covering the handles has moved and parts of the grip no longer cover the handle. This in itself is probably unlikely to result in a significant injury.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 2 shows a bolt is missing in the frame. This, too, may not be too important – the equipment seems to be working okay without it.


Photo 3 The establishment receives a plus here – some safety instructions.

Number one: A caution to always wear the wrist strap to prevent a fall in the event your hands slip from the handles – GREAT!

Numbers two and three: Useful information.

Number four: Read the owner’s manual prior to use – hmmm.  Where is that manual?

Number five: Keep those unfamiliar with the equipment away – sounds more like information for the establishment.  And how is this monitored in an open conditioning area containing many pieces of equipment?

Number six: Keep children off the StretchTrainer – not really relevant in most health clubs (and also info for the establishment).

Number seven: A recommendation for the client to have a physical prior to a training program – okay, good advice.

Photo 4 Okay, let’s be sure to use those wrist straps so we can prevent a fall if your hands slip off the handles

Photo 4

– Oops! Which wrist straps? Where are those wrist straps? Well, I really don’t need a wrist strap anyway. Wham!! Doggone! That floor is hard . . . why are my head and elbow aching?

Some of the items spotted in equipment inspections may not be important, but others may result in serious injury … in this case, perhaps a concussion and a fractured elbow – and a lawsuit. These photos should serve as a wake-up call for the establishment. Faulty equipment is a red flag for the risk management program. Are inspections being done? Is problematic equipment being placed out-of-service? Are problems being followed up on?

Take another look around your premises and see if you can prevent the next injury and avoid a possible lawsuit.