Describe different jobs you have worked in, the safety risks associated with them, and design a step-by-step guide for the employers with ideas on how to make them, safer.
My first job was when I was 14 years old and I worked at the Heritage Festival in Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington. My first regular job was at the Veterinary Hospital when I was 16. Through high school, I worked at Target, Cold Stone and Rite Aid. In college, I mainly worked at the on-campus child care center. After college, I worked various office jobs and also spent some time in event management, which also involved a lot of office work. Then in 2010, I entered the fitness industry. Perhaps, this is when things got a little more complex in terms of potential risks.
When it comes to safety in the workplace, I believe heavy equipment or machinery and dealing with the public are two factors that elevate risk. Fitness training combines both of these risk factors. We are dealing with heavy equipment, clients, gym members and drop in guests. Weights can drop on clients or employees while spotting or handing off weights, fingers can get caught in machines and people can pass out or pull a muscle.
When creating a step-by-step guide to keeping the gym safer for employees and clients, I would first start with what every individual brings in the gym. As typical protocol goes, if there are any pre-existing conditions it is suggested that if you have any health conditions that may affect your workout that you obtain medical clearance before starting. Additionally, appropriate workout attire and footwear is required. Excessively loose clothing should be restricted to avoid tripping or getting it caught in equipment. If a client or employee is prone to asthma attacks, their inhalers should be handy at all times. Bags and other items should be kept off the floor as they can be fall hazards. Even necessary items, like water bottles should be kept on or in available cubbies or shelves.
A couple years ago, I was placing a plate on a leg press. The plate was 45 lbs and I gripped the edges of the plate. I was loading up the leg press for my client who was finishing up another exercise. I attempted to watch the client and guide him through the exercise when the plate slipped from my hands and fell on my big toe. Nothing broke and I only suffered severe swelling and bruising, but it could have been much worse. Surely, the fault was on me for not paying attention. However, it was a plate that had ridges at the edges, but no openings to be used as handles. These are “old school” plates that you rarely see anymore. They should be retired entirely to avoid safety hazards. Additionally, dumbbells should ideally be curved or have a design conducive to gripping. Towels should also be readily available to dry off sweaty hands and increase the ability to hold onto equipment.
As gyms begin to open while COVID-19 continues to be a threat, more pressing safety issues come into play. The first step in this new scenario will include attempting to make sure every person who enters the gym is safe. Now, this isn’t a complete fail safe, however, the best attempts can be made to at least minimize the risk. Temperature checks, wiping down of shoes and other items with disinfectant wipes and hand washing prior to entering the facility must be required. At the front desk, plastic shields should be up to separate desk personnel from members. Upon entering, face masks must be worn when not actively participating in exercise. This shall include, but may not be limited to, walking to and from the locker room, in the locker room, moving from one machine to another, leaving a fitness class or going from one part of the gym to the other. All gym employees should wear face masks at all times and may only be permitted to work out during off peak times. Hand sanitizer should be available throughout the facility along with disinfectant wipes. Any and all equipment should be wiped down upon completion of use. Sharing equipment prior to completing use or “working in” should not be permitted. Additionally, plastic shields should be installed around workout areas where practical. For example, plastic shields should be used to enclose all cardio equipment, all weight machines and should be up to enclose different workout spaces. If plastic shields are impractical in certain areas, equipment should be spaced to keep members and employees at least six feet apart. Signage around the gym, employees and management should be utilized to enforce all of these measures are strictly enforced in order to keep everyone safe.
At the end of the day, accidents occur, but if we do everything to prevent such accidents we can surely minimize the incidence rate. Furthermore, even if accidents happen we can potentially lessen the damages. If we want enjoyment, productivity and fulfillment, we have to start with health and safety without any exceptions.