Planning for Emergencies

When attempting to manage emergencies within a fitness facility, each employee must be familiar with the following:

• Ability to identify an emergency and its severity
• Act according to the emergency plan

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states the following:

“A club/facility must be able to respond in a timely manner to any reasonable foreseeable emergency event that threatens the health and safety of club/facility users. Towards this end, a club/facility must have an appropriate emergency plan that can be executed by qualified personal in a timely manner”
(ACSM, 1997)

From the above statement, we can identify an emergency situation as one which contains the following elements:

1. Threat to the health or safety of an individual member or staff member.
2. A foreseeable event which may place members or staff at risk of injury or death.

This may include the following events, heat-related illnesses, physical injuries or heart attacks. They may also include fires, flooding and bomb threats.

Minor crises may involve intoxicated clients, hazardous spills, unruly behaviour and parking lot accidents.

Emergency Management Plan

The primary goal of the emergency management plan is to ensure that minor problems do not escalate into major events and that major events do not lead to fatal events.
The first step in developing a plan is to determine if current emergency plans exist in the building as a whole, and adapt to that plan.

The second step is to gain staff input. This serves 2 purposes; firstly to ensure staff but-in to the procedure, and secondly to ensure that staff add their expertise and familiarity with specific areas, making the plan as practical as possible.

The final step is the writing of the plan. It needs to be detailed enough to deal with specific emergencies, but not so complicated that it cannot be practically implemented. It needs to follow logical steps which are concise and are easily understood by both staff and members

Key Components:

1. Posting of emergency procedures at easily accessible and strategic locations. I.e. emergency exits, doors, offices and reception.
2. A highlighted sequence of events
3. List of emergency numbers

Elements which must be addressed on the plan

• Activation code: This is a method used by the staff member who identified the potential emergency to inform all other staff members of the emergency without causing panic. Once this code has been activated, the staff must be instructed on the plan to meet at a specific area or the location of the incident.

• Telephone Numbers: These numbers must include all emergency service contacts, as well as the procedure regarding the back-up communication system if the phones are inoperable or inaccessible. I/e. cellular phone or two-way radios.

• Location of nearest telephone: This must be indicated on the floor layout in relation to the position of the posted plan.

• Location Identification and Accessibility: All locations of the facility must be clearly indicated on the floor layout, along with access point to all locations and emergency exits.

• Locked Doors or Gates: The doors and gates which are locked must be indicated, as well as the location of the key and the details of the person responsible for the key.

• Location of Emergency Supplies: These must be clearly indicated along with the details of the person responsible for access if they are kept in a secure location.

• Information to share: In the event of an emergency, the employee must be aware that they need to convey their location (address), type of emergency, what has occurred, how many people need assistance, their gender and ages as well as an estimated time of arrival by the emergency services. The staff member must also be aware to remain on the line until the emergency services operator instructs them to hang up.

• Directions for staff responsibilities: Each staff member must have a designated responsibility in the emergency plan. They should be aware of 1st responder responsibilities as well as manager responsibilities.

• Call for member assistance: Certain member present may be medically trained. In the event of a medical emergency, it is recommended to request that any medically trained members are directed to the site of emergency.

• Incident and accident reports: All staff involved in the management of the emergency must give a description of the events immediately following the event. The manager needs to complete an incident report and file this along with all staff reports.


All emergency equipment must be clearly marked and checked against requirements on a monthly basis. Basic emergency equipment includes: an automated external defibrillator (AED), full-stocked first aid kit, torch, a designated cellphone and resuscitation masks for each staff member.

Staff Training

It is important that all fitness staff have first aid and CPR qualifications. It is recommended that all staff have basic CPR qualifications, and that management staff have advanced first aid and CPR qualifications. All staff qualifications must be reviewed annually, and new staff need to be trained on the emergency plan prior to beginning employment.

Practicing the Plan

Emergency plans must be practiced and rehearsed regularly. These rehearsals can be planned or unannounced. It is also recommended that the rehearsal be reviewed and discussed, and that feedback is given to all staff members. It is recommended that a health and safety professional oversee and plan the rehearsal, as well as provide feedback.

First Aid in the Fitness Workplace

Please be advised that all personal trainers require a current CPR certificate prior to entering into the fitness workplace. This training must be kept up to date on an annual basis.

First Aid Kit

  • There should be a suitably stocked first aid kit in each place where people are working.
    First aid kits must be made of sturdy material and be designed to protect the contents from damp, dust and contamination. Kits must be clearly identified as first aid containers. The marking must be a white cross on a green background.
  • The kits can be of any size, but they must be large enough to fit the contents, and be of a sufficient size to cope with the number of people needing to use it.
  • The size of the kit will depend on whether or not it is designed to operate as a mobile, lone worker or commercial premises kit.
  • First aid kits must be checked regularly and they be replenished as soon as possible after use, so there’s always an adequate supply of equipment available.
  • Items should be replaced before the expiry date shown on the packaging, where applicable.
  • Nothing other than first aid equipment or related equipment, such as pens and accident report forms, should be in the kits.
  • Items needed for wound cleaning
  • Clean water and disposable drying material should be provided to clean wounds. If clean water is not available, consider providing alternatives like individually wrapped moist cleansing wipes or sterile saline solution.
  • Cotton wool and antiseptics should not be used to treat wounds. Cotton wool fibres stick to wounds and incorrectly diluted antiseptics can cause burns.
  • If you supply reusable eye-wash bottles it’s important the water is not stored in the bottles, as it can become stale and provide a breeding ground for bacteria. The bottles should be filled with fresh water at the time they are required. Once used, the bottles and any attachments must be properly cleaned with hot water and a mild detergent.
  • It is recommended that over-the-counter pain relief medicines, such as paracetamol or aspirin, should not be given to people who have been injured at work, unless the person dispensing the medicine is medically qualified to do so.
  • Employers may decide to make over-the-counter pain relief medicine available for employees to administer themselves, so employees don’t have to leave work to get medical help for relatively minor symptoms such as headaches. This may be relevant for workplaces located a long way from medical services or pharmacies, or that operate when medical services and pharmacies are closed.
  • If you decide to provide pain relief, monitor the usage to minimise misuse, abuse or accidental over-dosage.
  • Pain relief described as “pharmacy-only medicine”, “prescription medicine” and “restricted medicine” should not be provided in first aid kits.

Suggested minimum contents for a workplace first aid kit

• A manual giving general guidance on first aid
• Individually wrapped moist wipes or saline solution
• 20 individually wrapped sterile adhesive dressings (assorted sizes), appropriate to the type of work (dressings may be of a detectable type for food handlers)
• Two sterile eye pads
• Two individually wrapped triangular bandages (sterile)
• Clasps or safety pins to tie bandages
• Two stretch bandages
• Six medium sized, individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings – approximately 12cm x 12 cm
• Two large sterile individually wrapped unmedicated wound dressings – approximately 18cm x 18cm
• Two pairs of disposable gloves
• One resuscitation mask.

This is a suggested contents list only, you may want to use equivalent but different items.

When you do your Needs Assessment you may identify a need for additional items. This could include, for example:

• Scissors
• Adhesive strips or band-aids for minor wound dressing
• Non-allergic adhesive tape
• Disposable aprons
• Forceps or tweezers to remove foreign bodies
• Individually wrapped moist wipes or saline solution
• Plastic bags for waste disposal
• Hand sanitiser.

Ideally, these items are stored inside the first aid kit. But if necessary they may be stored separately as long as they are available for use as required. It’s recommended that you use first aid signs that clearly show the locations of first aid equipment. This makes the equipment easier to locate in an emergency. You need at least one full basic first aid kit in each place where people are working, which includes work vehicles. Additional kits may be required depending on the outcome of your needs assessment. There should be at least one kit on each floor of a multi-level workplace. If you have more than 50 employees, it’s recommended that an additional kit should be provided, and for every additional 50 employees another kit should be provided. First aid kits should be located so they’re clearly visible and accessible to all employees, and should be unlocked wherever possible. Sealed emergency kits should be available where kits must be locked.

First aid kits should be located close to a wash basin with hot and cold running water and clean towels. If because of the location clean running water isn’t available, sterile saline solution or wipes should be supplied in the kits, and hand sanitising gel should also be available. Kits should be located close to areas of particular or special hazards. Wall-mounted kits should be removable, and be of a size and weight that one person can carry. Disposable gloves should be provided for use by people giving first aid, to reduce the risk of them transmitting disease and infections from person to person. First aiders must be trained so they can safely use personal protective clothing and equipment. If blankets are provided, they should be stored alongside the first aid equipment, and kept free from dust and damp. Other first aid equipment, including AEDs (defibrillators), oxygen and medicines may be supplied on specialist advice. People must not operate equipment that requires specialist training unless they have that training. Plastic disposable bags that can be sealed closed should be provided for soiled first aid dressings, disposable equipment and gloves. Ensure that used dressings and other biologically contaminated equipment are safely disposed of in order to reduce the risk of cross-infection. If needles or other sharp instruments require disposal, a sharps disposal bin and a contract for its safe removal is recommended.

Each first aid kit should contain the names, job titles and contact details for the first aiders. They should also contain emergency contact numbers (ambulance, hospital, and doctor, etc). It’s recommended that writing materials are kept in or near the kit so people can record what has been used. This will help you make sure the kit is restocked in a timely way. Employers in large workplaces, for example those with more than 100 employees, should consider providing a first aid room to cope with the higher likelihood of an accident occurring. Employers should also consider the need for a first aid room if their workplace is located somewhere where access to medical facilities is difficult, or where there are significant hazards in the workplace.

Controlling the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace

Infectious disease risks often pose a serious problem in the workplace. From the seasonal flu to respiratory diseases, a plethora of infectious diseases is responsible for worker illnesses, and in worse-case scenarios, death.

At home, people go to work not realizing they are contagious, or they may feel sick and go to work anyway. Regrettably, one of the main reasons infectious diseases spread so quickly in the workplace is because some employees don’t believe they’re going to spread germs; instead they just seem to be thinking about all the work they have to do.

A scenario with tuberculosis (TB) illustrates how easy it is for diseases to travel. While traveling for work, an employee begins to feel sick and develops chest pain and a bad cough. Over the next few days, he boards a plane for home still feeling sick and coughing regularly. Upon returning home, the employee goes to work and continues life as usual until he begins coughing blood and decides to go to the doctor, only to find out he has TB. Think about the implications of this scenario. Everyone who has come into contact with this individual is at risk for contracting the disease.

Understanding Disease Transmission

The primary routes of transmission are contact (direct and indirect), droplet, and airborne.

1. Direct contact involves the infectious agent being transmitted through physical contact (skin-to-skin). Indirect contact occurs when the infectious agent is transferred to some type of object or surface (countertops, door knobs).

2. Droplets occur when the infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth of a susceptible individual. The influenza virus is transmitted this way.

3. Airborne transmission occurs when infectious agents can remain suspended in air for extended periods of time. The airborne agent may be inhaled by a susceptible person and enter the respiratory tract, where it creates the potential for infection. Airborne transmission only occurs when the infectious agent is capable of surviving and retaining its infectious state for an extended period of time. An example of an airborne agent is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis (TB), and the rubella virus, which causes measles.

Preventing the Spread of Infectious Disease

It’s important to follow best practices and take proper preventive measures. Infectious disease experts say it’s highly advisable to obtain recommended vaccinations and immunizations to help prevent illness and the spread of disease. Other important steps to remember in reducing the spread of infectious agents:

• Practice proper hand hygiene – wash hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of infection
• Stay home when you are ill – don’t put others at risk of exposure
• Travel wisely – don’t travel on public transportation, by rail or air when you’re ill. Many people confined in a small area for infectious agents
• Don’t share items – passing around items that have been touched by an infected person can transfer the illness
• Practice respiratory hygiene
• Adhere to proper infection/exposure control precautions


1. Identify potential sources of infection from activities, poor hygiene or provision of first aid.

2. Evaluate the risk of infection.

3. Consider the modes of transmission, frequency and types of exposure.

4. Develop safe work practices with controls to manage risks.

5. Provide appropriate personal protective equipment and ensure availability of training.

6. Determine the need for and availability of vaccination.

7. Record training, vaccination, risk controls and safe work practices.

8. Ensure confidentiality of records.