The risk of being injured at the gym is higher than some people may think. Research has revealed that two in five UK gym-goers have injured themselves while training.
Most gym injuries result from overexertion or poor form. However, other accidents are common and can result from:
- Faulty equipment
- Health and safety breaches
- Poor instruction
- Forgotten or inadequate inductions
As a personal trainer, you have a legal ‘duty of care’ to your clients to reduce the likelihood of these accidents. You might be hosting training sessions at a local gym, a client’s house, outdoors, or even remotely. Even though you’ll typically hold sessions on someone else’s premises, you may still be liable if your client is injured.
That’s why there are several forms you should complete and get signed by new clients before any physical activity can commence. These forms will help you design a suitable training programme for your client to minimise the risk of injury and your potential liability.
Chris Salmon, Operations Director of Quittance Legal Services, outlines the key legal forms a personal trainer needs.
Table of contents
- Disclaimer form
- Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)
- Fitness assessment form
- Emergency contact details form
- Client-trainer service agreement
- Online forms
- Specialist personal trainer insurance from Insure4Sport
1. Disclaimer form
Signing a disclaimer form is a matter of course for anyone wanting to engage in activities that present an element of risk.
As a personal trainer, you could be liable if your client is injured during a training session. However, a disclaimer (also referred to as an exclusion clause, exemption clause, or waiver) is a legal statement designed to limit one party’s liability to another. In this case: your liability to your client.
You’ll need to ask new clients to sign a disclaimer before they start their first session. Take time to go through the disclaimer with the client, rather than asking them to sign it 5 minutes before the initial training session.
Chris Salmon: “By law, clients cannot sign away their fundamental right to seek compensation for an injury. Many disclaimers are written in a way that suggests these rights can be waived, but such clauses are often unenforceable.
A disclaimer is a useful way to underscore the risks and importance of proper technique from the outset. That said, don’t rely on the disclaimer in the event a client is injured.”
If you have a website, blog, or social media presence, make sure you link to an appropriate disclaimer that warns of the health and safety risks of the exercises you’re promoting.
2. Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q)
For most people, some level of physical activity should not be a problem. However, you should avoid relying on an individual’s informal assessment of their health and ability. Many new clients will not know their limits or the risks of exceeding them.
That’s where the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) comes in. A PAR-Q is a detailed form that asks questions about a client’s general health and exercise history.
The form asks clients to disclose any health condition, injury, or illnesses that might affect their ability to exercise. It also asks questions about the client’s health goals and helps personal trainers design a programme that won’t put the client at undue risk of injury.
Should the client sustain an injury, a signed PAR-Q would demonstrate that you took the necessary steps to identify and mitigate the risk.
Clients must also notify you of any change in their circumstances – for instance, pregnancy or the diagnosis of an illness.
3. Fitness assessment form
Although there may be some crossover with the PAR-Q form, you should use the fitness assessment form as an ongoing record of your client’s fitness and health levels.
You can tailor the form to different exercises and client goals. You can also use it to track anything from weight to BMI or resting and active heart rates. A fitness assessment form can be used as an activity log – and even a nutrition diary.
You should complete this form during an initial training session and periodically (usually monthly) thereafter.
The fitness assessment form can serve as further evidence that you’re actively monitoring a client’s health in the event of a claim.
4. Emergency contact details form
Sometimes incorporated in the PAR-Q form, you’ll need your client’s emergency contact information and medical information to be readily accessible.
You should have a clear procedure in place in case a client is seriously injured. For example, if you’re training in the park, you must ensure you have immediate access to the client’s contact information.
Whatever the initial cause of a client’s injury, if this is worsened due to your failure to access medical information (such as a heart condition or allergy), you could be held liable.
5. Client-trainer service agreement
A service agreement is a good idea from a commercial point of view, as it helps formalise the client-trainer relationship.
You can use it to set out your general terms and conditions, such as session cancellation fees and contract length.
The agreement can outline training policies, your warranties to the client, and theirs to you. The client can acknowledge that they have sought the green light from their GP to participate in the training programme.
Alternatively, the client can confirm their agreement to proceed without a medical exam, provided they absolve you from liability for any resulting injury or illness that might have otherwise been preventable.
Furthermore, the client can use the agreement to consent to the programme and agree to notify you if their personal or health circumstances change.
6. Online forms
The COVID-induced surge in remote training means you might never meet your client in person or share the same physical space.
However, you could still be liable for a client’s injury, even if it occurs at the client’s home. Your duty of care to your client still exists, and you must ensure that they complete all your standard forms.
If you’re holding an online class over Zoom or Teams, for example, you’ll still need to ensure that the client has checked their training area for hazards.
The client also needs to confirm that they’ll use any personal equipment in line with manufacturer guidelines and that they’re fit enough to participate in the class. You can add these clauses to the standard disclaimer form.
Various third-party webform providers can integrate with your website, class sign-up process, or online training session provider. Alternatively, your forms can be sent out, completed, and returned in advance of your first training session.
Don’t forget about your insurance
Despite your best endeavours, there’s always a risk that your client might injure themselves or another person.
That’s why you need Public Liability as a personal trainer. This insurance will cover you if you’re held liable for a client’s injury or if they injure another person during a training session.
Public Liability insurance will also cover damage to third-party property, such as exercise equipment at the gym you’re using.
Our thanks go to Chris for his insights!
As Chris alluded to, specialist insurance is vital for personal trainers. At Insure4Sport, we offer up to £10 million of Public Liability, as well as:
- Professional Indemnity, to protect you from claims arising from the training advice you’ve given.
- Personal Accident cover, in case you suffer a serious injury during training.
- Equipment cover, in case your equipment is lost, damaged, or stolen.
Find out more about how our personal trainer insurance can help you by clicking the link above, or get an instant online quote within minutes.