Fitness presenters spend countless hours researching material, perfecting moves and even picking out the right clothes to wear on the big day. If you are a professional personal trainer or group instructor, then you already know the importance of having general liability fitness insurance to protect you while working with clients at your regular place of business. But in your role as a fitness presenter, do you require a different policy to safeguard you when you are on the road? Discover when it’s especially crucial to carry adequate fitness insurance coverage as a presenter.
Insurance experts recommend that all fitness professionals, whether they are presenting a workshop or teaching ongoing classes, carry general liability insurance. The recommended coverage varies depending on the country and state, but Jeffrey E. Frick of Fitness and Wellness Insurance Agency in Solana Beach, California, says that $1 million (U.S.) coverage is the minimum his company offers. “Higher limits of liability are available to presenters who require them due to the requirements of the facility they are presenting at or to individuals who have assets they need to protect,” says Frick. “Costs range from $175 to $350 per year for a fitness professional who fits our guidelines for the $1 million insurance coverage.”
John Hart, vice president of Sports-Can Insurance Consultants Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, says the costs for general liability insurance vary based on several factors:
- where you are presenting sessions or classes
- the type of sessions you present— lectures versus active sessions
- what your qualifications are
- how many hours a year you will be on stage in your role as a fitness expert
Qualifications for general liability insurance vary based on the insurer, but a recognized certification or degree is recommended. “The easiest thing in the world is for a broker to say no when it comes to issuing you the right kind of coverage,” says Hart. It is important to work with a broker who is experienced in fitness and recreation insurance policies and who understands the risk factors associated with your activity. As a member of a professional fitness association like IDEA, you may be eligible for group policies.
Many of the risk factors for claims in a workshop setting are the same as they are in your home facility—for example, slips and falls, twisted ankles and overexertion. However, conventions and workshops present a unique set of challenges, such as overcrowding, inexperience with equipment provided, failure to see hazards like water on the floor, and the presenter’s potential inability to monitor each participant individually.
At a Convention. Convention organizers typically issue presenters a written contract. Read it carefully for a “hold harmless” clause. This clause states that in case of injury, you will hold harmless the organization and its staff and volunteers, as well as the host facility and its staff. Plus, it says that your insurance coverage will pay any damages that may result from an incident in your session.
At a Nonclub Location. If you are hosting a workshop at a hotel, a municipal facility, a church basement or some other off-site location, the facility will usually require you to provide a certificate of insurance that names the facility as the “additional insured.” Your policy will stipulate how you do this—typically by notifying your broker in advance. Frick says costs vary—from no additional fee for a basic additional-insured certificate to $150–$400 for an event insurance certificate—depending on the number of attendees and the type of insurance you already hold.
At Another Facility. If you are invited to a fitness club as a guest presenter, you are an independent contractor and you are not covered under that club’s insurance. If anything goes wrong during your session, you may be liable for the claim and your general liability insurance coverage should kick in.
If You Own the Facility. Say you are teaching a workshop at a place you own and one of the participants gets hurt. As long as you are within your scope of practice, you will likely be covered for any incidents that occur, just as you would be if something happened to a regular member while under your care. If you are the owner, it is still vitally important to advise your broker in advance of any change in the nature of your business and the type of training being done.
Presenting Internationally. Are you a U.S.-based presenter who goes overseas to present programs? Short business trips to other countries are usually covered under your U.S. policy, according to Frick. Check your policy or call your insurance agent to verify this coverage. If you are a presenter living outside the U.S., ask your fitness insurance company to see where your coverage applies.
If you’re thinking about using waivers to protect you while you are presenting, know that they are being challenged more often in court, so it’s important to have one with the right wording. An insurance broker who specializes in fitness and recreation policies may provide you with a template, but you should have a lawyer customize one for your needs. Waivers don’t make lawsuits go away, but they do cut down on nuisance suits. When you present a workshop, ensure that every participant signs a waiver. If you are hired by a host organization, ask the organizers what kind of waiver they use and, if appropriate, include your own waiver as well.
So far we’ve been talking about protecting participants. What about you? Are you covered for injury or accident when presenting?
Fitness presenter Jody Evanson of Lethbridge, Alberta, shares a story about a convention stage that kept sliding apart as she went through her energetic high-low routine. Eventually she had to get the room monitors to take up positions at the four corners of the stage to prevent it from splitting in two. What if that incident had resulted in an injury that led to her missing other sessions or a convention a few weeks later? If you are working when you are injured, regular travel insurance may not cover you, as it is generally meant for vacationers. If you make your money by presenting, teaching and training and an injury forces you to the sidelines, will you be able to afford not to work? Disability insurance can be the answer here—and is worth investigating with your broker.
The Scouts say “Be Prepared,” and it’s a fine motto to apply when gearing up for your presentation. For example, be familiar with the brand and type of equipment that the event organizers will supply. Will your participants be on carpet (as at most conventions) or on wood flooring? On carpeted surfaces, remind attendees to take care during pivot turns and shuffling movements.
Find the fine line between being a prima donna and being safe. Assess the situation and be mentally prepared to take action if needed.
Despite your best intentions, accidents can happen. At fitness conventions hundreds of people may attend single sessions, and the event organizers can’t continuously monitor safety everywhere. Even in an in-club workshop, where it’s more possible to keep an eye on all participants, it’s just as easy to have an accident.
If an incident does occur, minimize your exposure to a claim and gather as much information as quickly as possible. Consider these points:
Speak to the Injured Party. At a large convention, you might need to ask the room monitor to get the person’s name and number or hotel room details. Checking in with the injured party, no matter how minor the problem, can go a long way to soothing physical and emotional hurts. If necessary, have a room monitor or assistant fill out an accident/incident report with the injured person.
Stop and Make Eye Contact With the Injured Person. Assess the circumstances. If required, step off the stage and get involved. While this may annoy other participants, taking a real interest in an injured participant may dissolve her anger.
Read the Situation. Sometimes it’s better to let someone “walk off” his injury and embarrassment, but always follow up with the person later.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up. “Look at the other participants,” says Ken Alan, a Los Angeles–based fitness presenter with over 20 years’ experience. “Did they incur injuries, too? If so, that [suggests] incompetent instruction or inappropriate exercise selection. If only one person was injured, it’s probably an isolated event [and it] would be difficult to prove professional negligence.”
Alan also offers advice that’s worked for him: “I take an interest in workshop participants. I learn their names and find out how long they’ve been training or instructing. I greet people individually as they come into the workshop room. [These things help convey that] the last thing I want to do is injure a participant. And if an injury occurs, the person is less likely to take legal action because he knows I care about his well-being.”
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