Top tips to protect your boutique gym

Boutique gyms are disrupting the industry by offering an increasingly varied range of services for clients. For gym operators, it presents an equally diverse risk environment. 

Based on what we’ve witnessed in this growing market as specialist sport and leisure advisors, we’ve developed a list of the top 10 tips for insurance and risk management for your business:

1. Take a universal approach

Integrating your health and safety approach into your business operations and risk management, rather than doing so in isolation, is key to success. Whilst standard operating procedures may be driven by the results of the risk assessment, it’s important to work with your operational teams to ensure steps taken are not just practical, but also comply with your insurance policy requirements.

2. Know your own risks

Some areas of health and safety, such as legionella and fire safety, are highly technical and would require specialist help. For everything else, the gym operator will have the most knowledge and experience of the main risks, and by speaking with other operators and manufacturers, the activities and resulting risks can be properly assessed.

3. Monitor and review accidents

Learning from accidents and near misses is a fundamental part of safety, yet a pile of accident report forms tells you very little. It’s essential to carry out a trend analysis in order to better understand the common causes of accidents at your facility.

4. Keep it simple

Long and complicated procedures usually gather dust rather than get implemented. With clear, concise procedures in place, it’s more likely that your employees will understand what’s required, will implement the necessary next steps, and follow through with any measures put in place.

5. Review and revisit

Every business is dynamic, and gyms are especially so. As things change, documentation and procedures need to be updated. Rather than annual reviews of your risk management plan, we’d recommend regular reviews. There are many events that could trigger this, including introducing new activities or equipment, a change of management, or an accident or near miss. Once you have reviewed your risk assessment, consider if changes to your procedures are required and retrain your teams.

6. If it isn’t recorded, it didn’t happen

Keep a record of all key safety activity including inductions, equipment checks, cleaning, maintenance and training. It’s worth remembering that in UK law, a claimant has up to three years after an accident to bring a claim (for minors the three years doesn’t start until their 18th birthday), so records will always be important.

7. Liability Insurance

As personal injury is one of the major risks to gyms, it is critical to have the right liability cover. Whilst this will be different for every business, some of the key things to consider are:

  • Limit of Indemnity – We would suggest £5 million as the absolute minimum, but higher limits can be obtained
  • Conditions – Ensure conditions are practical and can be complied with
  • Cover – A standard business insurance policy will not include Wrongful Advice, which is essential to cover the advice instructors and personal trainers provide.
  • Member to Member cover and Work Away – important extensions for a gym to cover issues that commonly arise.

8. Ensure you have the correct business interruption cover

In 2019, over 60% of property claims costs were related to business interruption. Gyms, and in particular boutique facilities, are severely affected by this as revenue streams can often cease completely following a fire, flood or burst pipe. When businesses do not have the right cover in place, they risk losing the business entirely. Operators must make sure that the sum insured and the maximum indemnity period are suitable for their requirements.

9. Don’t underestimate the cyber risk

Cyber has now become one of the principal risks facing businesses, yet many opt not to insure it and dedicate limited resource to managing the risk. For gyms using third party membership software or booking systems, this can create a false sense of security. For example, if another company stores the data, and payments are taken through the third party portal, legal responsibility will still lie with you as the ‘data controller’. Other risks, such as cyber extortion and system recovery, also pose a threat, but can be insured for protection. 

10. Seek Specialist Advice

You don’t need to be an expert in gym insurance to have the best insight and expertise at your disposal. A specialist insurance broker will know exactly the right covers to recommend, source a suitable policy and provide you with the bespoke risk management support you need.

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Neil Adebowale

Director - Sports & Leisure