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Safely reopening after COVID-19: a guide for Gyms

The guidelines and timescales for reopening gyms are not yet clear; however, this guide provides an outline of some of the key points you will need to consider and put in place before opening your doors after the enforced closure.

There are genuine risks to gyms which can be summarised as follows:

  1. Civil liability: there’s a potential liability if you fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Our Recover policy will indemnify you if it’s alleged you’ve been negligent in your duty.
  2. Public perception and reputation: for customers to continue to visit the facility, it’s essential that you create confidence that it’s safe to do so, and that all the right measures are in place. Creating a visual trail of all the steps you’re taking is important. Communication with customers is essential to this. The perception of an unsafe facility could be very damaging and clearly an actual outbreak linked to the premises will have a detrimental effect on your business.
  3. Public authority enforcement: local authorities, along with Public Health England, will be watching the pattern of new COVID-19 cases very closely as lockdown measures begin to ease. Intervention from a public authority could have a serious impact on your reputation.


We should also remember that all the normal risks of running a gym continue to exist. After a long period of closure, it’s important to make sure staff are ready and trained, equipment is in working order and the building is ready to receive visitors. The guidance below will touch on some of these key points for reopening as well those specifically relating to COVID-19.

The 7 P’s for reopening your gym

We’ve prepared some of the important points you will need to consider before reopening your park. For simplicity we have broken this down into seven key areas:

7 p's graphic

1. Plan

  • Risk assessment: a specific COVID-19 risk should be provided, which considers risks to customers, employees and other visitors to the premises. Identify risks, evaluate the risks (likelihood and impact) and then decide on suitable control measures. For more information on risk assessments see the online government resource available here. This should be the starting point for all planning which then informs your procedures, training and communications.
  • Be patient: there is a lot of work to do and you need to allow the time to complete it. Some control measures may require adapting the premises or purchasing items which may have a lead time.
  • Talk to others: speak to people from outside your organisation at an early stage. This could include cleaning experts, other gym operators and, of course, your friendly insurance adviser.

2. People

  • Employees: consider staff requirements. Are there any vulnerable individuals (for example with underlying conditions)?
  • Consult with your people: the HSE has produced a guide about working with your staff to prevent coronavirus.
  • Mental wellbeing: do not underestimate the impact the lockdown may have had on the mental wellbeing of your staff. Some employees may have also been personally affected by illness or bereavement.
  • Training: schedule a refresher with staff on training and additional training for new procedures.
  • Other visitors: as there will be a need for contractors and other visitors to the premises, ensure these are considered in plans and communications.

3. Promotion (and Communication)

  • Website: make new procedures clear to customers. Particularly highlight those which will be essential prior to attendance such as safety briefing changes and rules about who cannot attend the gym.
  • Signage: additional signage will need to be created with new rules and procedures for customers. Some of the key messages will be social distancing, use of sanitisers, warning to stay away if you have symptoms etc.
  • Booking confirmation: if your class booking procedures at the facility have changed, then this should also be highlighted on the booking confirmation.
  • Staff communication: informing and keeping staff up to date with any changes in procedures will be really important in the lead up to the opening and once opened.

4. Procedures

As a strategic partner of ukactive, we have been in discussion with them throughout the enforced closure period and around reopening procedures.  They have published an excellent framework COVID-19 – A framework for the re-opening of gym, leisure centre and wider fitness industry during social distancing, which we recommend you follow as you plan your reopening. As you will know, ukactive have been lobbying tirelessly on behalf of gym owners, as well as providing advice to help members reopen safely.

5. Premises

  • General building checks: initially an in-depth check will be required on the premises to ensure it’s safe for staff and visitors to re-enter after being closed for a substantial period of time.
  • Fire risk: pay particular attention to fire risk including checking fire exits, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting etc. Fire Risk Assessments should also be reviewed in light of some of the changes, such as fire evacuation points and the impact of social distancing. Also consider how to store hand sanitiser safely as this is flammable.
  • Gym and fitness equipment: this will require more in-depth inspection than a standard daily check, given the period that has now elapsed. You may wish to consider an external inspection.
  • Other equipment: ensure all other equipment is in working order prior to opening. Any equipment that is subject to statutory inspections under LOLER, PSSR or other regulations must have its documentation up to date. This would include any lifts or coffee machines.

6. Practice

  • Training: staff need to be aware of all new procedures and be appropriately trained to deliver this.
  • Refresh: don’t forget the importance of refreshing staff training on your standard procedures. The highest risk of a claim still remains from your normal activities, not from COVID-19, so make sure you get back to good habits to minimise injuries and keep users safe.
  • First Aid: staff may also need a refresh on first aid procedures. You should also discuss and clarify with them what to do at the moment. If you decide that social distancing has to be set aside to deal with emergencies, this is fine, as long as staff know and are clear on this point.
  • Soft launch: consider a soft launch to test your new procedures. Perhaps in just the first few sessions you can lower capacity even further to ensure staff are clear and able to operate with the new procedures and that they are working effectively before allowing more people in.

7. Paper Trail

As always, documentation will be key in order to evidence all reasonable measures have been taken.  This is important both for any personal injury claim but also any Environmental Health or HSE investigation or prosecution. Some of the key documents that should be available are:

  • Revised risk assessment/COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Updated fire risk assessment
  • Updated standard operating procedures
  • Messages on your website
  • Updated booking confirmation – highlighting new rules
  • Updated waiver
  • Staff training records
  • Equipment inspection records
  • Cleaning logs
  • Records of safety briefing

While this is not an exhaustive list of all measures you need to consider, it is designed to help you start planning to reopen.

We would love to speak with you about your plans to reopen your gym and how we can support you to manage your risks and insurance at this very important time.