Is fitness worth the risk?

By Michael Selinger on March 16th, 2018
  1. Employee health & wellbeing
  2. Wellbeing Programs


There is a lot of discussion around the topic of employee wellbeing programs, noting that a healthy workforce often results in a productive workplace and that prevention (keeping workers healthy) is better than a cure (not waiting for them to get sick).

We often hear of employers wanting to offer their workers a program to benefit their health but are worried about liabilities in case they are injured undertaking their activities.

A common query is: “Staff have asked if we could provide gym equipment for them to use in their lunchbreaks or before and after work. The cost is not a consideration as they are not asking for much and we can easily allocate a safe place.

“But what if someone gets hurt? What happens then? We’re worried we are taking on too much risk.”

Best intentions

Keeping workers healthy can be beneficial for your company’s bottom line through reduced absenteeism caused by common illnesses or injuries, fewer workers’ compensation claims and a more productive workplace.

However, your general health and safety duty to your employees will continue to apply in a workplace gym. Your health and safety obligations require you to take all reasonably practicably measures to ensure the health and safety of your workers or other people at the workplace gym.

In setting up your workplace gym you should consider the following steps:

  1. Identify hazards – including the gym facility and the risk associated with physical activity.
  2. Assess the risks posed by the hazards – consider what may happen to a worker exposed to an identified risk and the likelihood and seriousness of any injury, illness or damage that could arise.
  3. Implement control measures to reduce or eliminate the risks – this may be in the form of policies, first aid procedures and equipment or supervision.

Physical activity poses particular risks if your employees are not in good physical fitness. The following steps may help you to manage those risks:

  • implement a workplace policy that allows you to exclude participation on the basis of safety grounds;
  • request (confidential) disclosure of any medical conditions that may affect a worker’s ability to participate;
  • obtain evidence of fitness to participate; and
  • request your workers sign a waiver form before participating.

What a waiver won’t do

A waiver form will not eliminate all your liabilities. You are unable to contract out of your statutory obligations, such as your health and safety duty. It will likely only eliminate personal claims.

It may be worthwhile contacting your insurance provider to determine whether your workplace gym will be covered by your current policy.

In setting up your gym as part of a health and wellbeing program at their workplace, subscribers to the Health & Safety Handbook can refer to Chapter H8 – Health and Wellbeing Programs.

It’s just one of the 70-plus chapters in the Handbook covering the A-Z of health and safety law.

You don’t have to memorise the contents, just know that it’s there when you have a query or concern that needs solving.

All the information is written in plain English by the health and safety experts at Holding Redlich, which means you won’t have to guess the right answer! Subscribe today.


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