Creating a Safe Environment

The fitness facility must establish a safe environment in which the member or client is able to train. This environment must be compliant with the government legislation as well as health and safety guidelines from the industry regulator.Further to this, there is very little regulation of the health and fitness industry in South Africa. This leaves much of the responsibility on individuals employed in the industry to provide the highest standards in health and safety within their specific context.

Since members and clients are often ignorant of basic health and safety guidelines within the facility, it is important that the staff of the facility endeavour to educate the member through the following means of the guidelines and rules of the facility:

1. Member Induction

This method is often underutilised by many facilities, and too frequently involves a basic walk-through of the facility by the sales person. The sales person is responsible to educate the member on basic access guidelines, however, the fitness staff are required to introduce the member to every aspect of the facility, and encourage the member to behave within the rules and regulations of the facility. The manager must ensure that the induction process is thorough and that staff are completing the process entirely with each member or client.

2. Signage

This method cannot be utilised on its own, but rather reinforce the rules, regulations and guidelines conveyed in the induction process. This is due to the fact that members or clients very rarely take notice of signage. Signage is however essential from a legal perspective, so as to ensure the facility is not faced with legal action due to lack of information. The following guidelines must therefore be utilised for signage:

• The message of the sign must be clear. Signs must ideally only covey 1 message, E.g. Entry and exit points or Health and Safety information or club event information. If multiple messages are conveyed on a single sign, members are less likely to pay attention to the sign, or the messages can be obscured or confused.

• The message must be concise and utilise basic terminology. The sign must reach the target audience and not confuse or overwhelm the member with legal jargon.

• The sign must be legible. Guidelines for placement and writing size generally encourage signs to be 1.5 to 2 metres off the ground and allow the member to be able to read the sign from a minimum of 3 to 4.5 metres.

3. Education and Buy-in of Staff

It is vital that staff of the facility is well educated on the health and safety guidelines of the facility. It is also vital that the staff believe in the value of these guidelines in protecting the members, themselves and the facility. It becomes important to re-educate the staff of these guidelines at regular intervals throughout their time of employment.

Staff Education and Accreditation

The fitness facility needs to be staffed by adequately trained and accredited employees. Each employee must be aware of their job responsibilities, and along with management ensure that they are suitably trained and accredited in order to perform their responsibilities.

1. Management Staff

– Must hold a management qualification
– Must be trained in club processes, rules, regulations and guidelines
– Must be aware of legislation and policies governing the industry
– Must ensure employees are adequately trained and qualified
– Must actively seek to train and up skill staff

2. Sales Staff

– Must hold a sales and/or marketing qualification
– Must be trained in club processes, rules, regulations and guidelines
– Must be aware of legislation and policies governing the industry
– Must ensure prospective members are adequately screened
– Must ensure members are aware of their and the facilities responsibilities

3. Fitness Staff

– Must hold an industry-recognised health and fitness qualification
– Must hold a current first aid and CPR qualification
– Must be trained in club processes, rules, regulations and guidelines
– Must be aware of legislation and policies governing the industry
– Must ensure the member is adequately screened and evaluated and is cleared to train by themselves or a medical professional if necessary
– Must ensure the member is aware of the rules, regulations and guidelines of the facility
– Must ensure the member is following a scientific and safe exercise program
– Must ensure the member is properly supervised while training

4. Maintenance Staff

– Must hold a recognised maintenance qualification
– Must be trained in club processes, rules, regulations and guidelines
– Must be aware of legislation and policies governing the industry
– Must be familiar with all equipment, their service guidelines, warranties and correct operation
– Must ensure all equipment is operating safely and optimally
– Must ensure all malfunctioning equipment is inaccessible to members and is properly designated as being inoperable if it cannot be removed from the floor.


The process of screening and evaluation will be covered in more depth later in the course material. This section serves to explain the importance of the screening and evaluation process as well as explain the policies of screening evaluation and supervision.


Member screening is a preventative measure to ensure that member who have conditions which may be made worse by physical activity are identified. Alternatively, members who possess risk factors associated with conditions that could be made worse by physical activity are also identified. By identifying these members, the facility are able decide on the following course of action:

1. Educate the member of the potential risks involved with them taking part in physical activity, and prevent the member from using the facility.
2. Refer the member to a medical professional for treatment and/or clearance.
3. Educate the member of the potential risks involved with them taking part in physical activity, and allow the member to use the facility on the condition that they sign a waiver indemnifying them from taking legal action against the facility in the event of their condition worsening.

It is not suggested that the 3rd course of action is ever followed if the facility has the interests of the member at heart.

The screening protocol must contain the following:

1. Personal Details
2. Health Appraisal (PAR-Q, risk factors, medical history)
3. Lifestyle Questionnaire (Goals, readiness to change and or psychological analysis, smoking and dietary habits, exercise history)
4. Screening Exam (Resting Heart Rate, Resting Blood Pressure, Waist-to-Hip ratio and/or exercise stress test)


Member evaluation occurs after the member has been screened and has been cleared to participate in a physical activity program offered by the facility. The member will go through various measurements and fitness testing protocols to determine their current fitness status. This evaluation serves to determine the starting point of the member, and ensure that the member does not participate in activities that are too advanced and potentially harmful. At the same time the member is able to achieve their goals quickly and effectively. It is important to ensure that the member is educated on the purpose and procedure of each test, the use of test data and confidentiality, as well as their freedom of consent to engage in testing.

The evaluation must consist of the following elements:

1. Further screening tests
2. Body Composition
3. Flexibility
4. Cardiorespiratory Endurance
5. Muscle strength and endurance


This is involves three aspects:

1. Program design

This aspect will be covered in depth later in the course material, but it is essential that the program meets the member’s needs and goals, is safe for the member, and is progressive.

2. Safety Orientation

The member must be orientated as to the safe use of all equipment in the facility, whether included in the training program or not. The members should be advised on the advantages on one-on-one training, alternative training methods and the risks of doing too much too soon. Appropriate clothing and footwear must also be addressed. The member must be walked through the entire facility and given hand-outs pertaining to the facility and its health and safety guidelines.

3. Direct Supervision

This involves the following key principles:

• The ability to relate well to members
• Effective communication
• Sufficient motivation of members
• Ability to take action

During this process, the member must be educated on correct use of equipment, safe and effective techniques when performing specific exercises, safe and effective warm-up and cool-down routines and safety concerns related to other members safety.

The staff member must be able to identify incorrect and unsafe exercise routines, and act to inform the member of potential risks, as well as provide feedback to the members of correct techniques or alternative exercises


Risk Management is an important component of any fitness facility

Risk Assessments are simply a careful examination of what could cause harm to people. We do them so that you can assess whether you have taken enough precautions or need further precautions to prevent harm from occurring.
Members have a right to be protected from harm caused by “hazards” present in an activity. In many instances straightforward measures can control risks.

Hazards are anything that may cause harm such as:

Tripping, falling, bones breaking from trauma or impact, contact or object impact, flying balls, slipping, exposure to hazardous environments or substances, injury from contact with machinery or equipment

Anything that may cause harm is a hazard..

When performing a Risk Assessment, it is advised that you follow and document the following steps:

Step 1: What is the hazard?
Step 2: Who is at risk from these hazards and what accidents may result?
Step 3: Is the risk low, medium or high?
Step 4: What is already being done about this hazard?
Step 5: What measures can be taken to prevent accidents and reduce the risk?
Step 6: Who is responsible for taking these actions and by what date will this be completed?

An example of a risk assessment is provided below:

Date9 April 2015 Performed by:  
Description of Risk/HazardArea or Department InvolvedPriority of ActionMeasure to be ImplementedPerson / Department ResponsibleDate of Action / Resolution
Cable on cable cross-over machine snappedMaintenanceMedCable is to be replacedMaintenance – Tom10 April 2015
Lock on Emergency exit door is faultyMaintenanceHighLock to be repaired / replacedMaintenance – Tom12 April 2015
Dumbbells left unpacked after group training classFitnessMedFitness staff to pack dumbbells awayFitness – Sifiso9 April 2015