Q & A

Why Personal Trainers need a Waiver Document

Sam Underwood 0

We’ve all seen it in the gym. People push themselves a little too far, and maybe try to pick up a weight that’s just too much. They run for slightly longer than they should, perhaps without water. A dumbbell is left unattended, ripe for someone to trip over. A hanging exercise is attempted without sufficient gloves, or with poor technique.

A client involved in a car accident comes back too early - maybe they aren’t telling their PT the whole truth about their condition - and decides to tackle a run that will surely aggravate limbs. Each and any of these circumstances could lead to injury or worse, and then legal action would surely follow. This is why for the PT a waiver form, also known as a disclaimer form, is so important.

Waivers are an essential part of safe personal training. You will encounter these requirements both as a gym instructor and a personal trainer.

What is a gym liability waiver?

A PT/gym liability waiver, as with any waiver form, is a method of protection. It’s a form to be signed by clients before they participate in physical activity, pointing out that they are aware of any physical dangers and risks associated with using the equipment and that they will not hold the trainer or gym responsible in the event of injury.

Should a legally enforceable and correctly written waiver be in place, this should be sufficient to protect the fitness practitioner from legal action should injury occur. This also has the dual benefit of making clients more aware of correct technique and discipline when using equipment or attempting exercises.

However, the waiver must use the correct terms and be comprehensive. If it is poorly-written, it may not hold up in the event of a dispute – which could lead to costly damages being awarded. For the sake of writing out a form correctly, it makes sense to spend some money and get it checked by an expert. Even a waiver that you’ve found online may not be sufficient.

What do I need in my Personal Trainer Disclaimer Form?

1) Does it have an appropriate title?

There may be a legal difference between legally-correct phrases such as indemnity and waiver of liability, and terms such as application/sign-up sheet which are not legally enforceable. The reason is that the initial sign-up/registration sheet should be treated as a completely separate entity, and not associated with signing up for the gym.

2) Does it make sense? Does the client understand it? Is it written in a font that is easy to read?

This point is not intended to be condescending, but more to point out the diversity of people that you’ll be working with. While some legal terms may be unavoidable, the more simple and straightforward, the more likely a client will be happy to read and sign it.

3)   Is it legally enforceable?

Be aware that many clients will not should sign a total waiver, which would absolve employees of all liability in any and all eventualities. It’s also likely to be unenforceable, in any event, even if a client does sign it.

Another type of waiver covers negligence, meaning that this would conceivably cover an employee in the event of extreme incompetence, or the gym itself if a poorly-assembled gym facility causes injury, such as a weight falling from a rack. That said, the waiver may not mean anything if it can be proven that injury occurred as a result of negligence or malice.

4) Does the waiver identify any potential risks associated with exercising and using machines?

Most waivers are written in the first person, meaning that a client writes their name and agrees with a statement related to their enrolment with a PT or gym. Signing that statement will then prove that the client understands what they are undertaking.

For example, the statement might list exactly what personal training will entail in list form, such as cardiovascular training, weight training, endurance work, and other fitness activities, but also explicitly state that the client is in good physical condition and actually able to participate in a programme.

It also might wish to list some of the possible negative side effects of exercise, from soreness and pain right through to severe injuries, illness, heart attacks and death, and therefore the client recognises that these are possible – but that the trainer is released from any claims that might arise while participating. In addition, if the PT is working for a larger organisation, a waiver might also release all directors, administrators, agents and other associated employees from any responsibility for any injury.

5) Is there a section which explicitly states that the client has read and understood the waiver, to be accompanied by a section for clients to sign and date?

The waiver is an essential part of the trainer’s business set-up, and should not be left to chance. If you want to become successful you must complete it, and ensure it is legally watertight.

Tags: Q & A

The Author

Sam Underwood