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    December 2013

    After Hours Use of Fitness Facilities

    image: student on elliptical

    Schools and colleges frequently receive requests from faculty, staff, visitors, parents, and students to use fitness facilities after regularly scheduled hours. To accommodate the community and encourage health and fitness, some institutions allow access to their facilities with no staff present. However, a review of UE claims shows that lack of supervision is the biggest risk in allowing use of facilities after hours.


    UE Claims Examples

    • At a camp for minors, a male camper and a female camper had sex in the weight room after a counselor allowed them to use the unsupervised facility.
    • A basketball court was open to local adults after hours. A knife fight broke out and local police were called.
    • A football team encouraged voluntary weightlifting sessions at the gym. One of the players broke his jaw during horseplay after hours.
    • A school issued passes to use the gym after hours. A man allowed his 12-year-old son and two friends to use the facility without supervision and one boy injured his ankle.

    Recommendations

    If schools and universities open their fitness facilities after hours, UE recommends the following risk management practices:

    • Require a signed release or assumption of risk form. Adults using the facility after hours (and parents of minors using the facility) should sign a specific and narrowly tailored release of liability. Minors should not sign a release but can sign an assumption of risk form that informs them of potential risks. The release should require users to follow all regular hours rules and any additional after-hours rules that have been imposed to increase safety.
    • Minors should never be unsupervised. Minors should be accompanied by a responsible adult if allowed to use the facility after hours. Be sure to include this provision in your release and agreement.
    • Post signage. People using fitness facilities after hours will not have access to staff members who can answer their questions. Signage should include rules, policies, and cautionary and danger information where warranted. Include disclaimer language that users of the facility after hours do so at their own risk. Signage also helps after hours users know what to do in an emergency. Direct users to emergency phones, emergency response procedures, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and automated external defibrillation units.
    • Work with local counsel. An attorney can draft legal documents, review signage and disclaimer language, and ensure compliance with the law.

    Resources

    Checklist for Effective Releases
    Waukesha County Technical College: Unsupervised Fitness Center Rules and Guidelines
    Central Region School Insurance Group: Public Member Use of Gymnasium Waiver


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