Many government agencies offer guidance to help businesses reopen while keeping employees and customers safe. Some guidance is more specific than others, but is rarely tailored to the unique considerations of gyms.
COVID-19 poses different risks for gyms than other businesses. Customers are breathing heavily and sweating, often in confined spaces. The same equipment is touched by many people, and much of the equipment is immovable, making social distancing difficult.
How can you determine what agency’s guidance applies to your gym? And what other factors do you need to consider?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines
OSHA issues guidance based on the particular industry involved and a workforce’s level of risk for COVID-19 exposure.
Most of your workforce interacts with customers, sometimes within 6 feet, who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients. This puts them at medium risk under OSHA’s standard, which could warrant taking additional industrial or administrative protections. Your back-of-house workers who do not interact with customers, like human resources or accounting staff, are at low risk and warrant different considerations. OSHA’s guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 includes advice by risk level.
OSHA has not issued gym-specific recommendations, but its retail guidelines are comparable in many respects. Many of these guidelines apply to gyms, too, and can serve as a helpful reference.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines
The CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting guidance is vital for gyms given the increased level of contact with various equipment, such as free weights and treadmills. Implement rigorous cleaning protocols not only for your workers, but also for your customers. The CDC’s planning tool can help you create your own cleaning procedures.
State and local orders
These orders may contain more specific guidance. For example, Texas released minimum standard health protocols for gyms and exercise facilities. Be familiar with county or local guidance, as well, especially if it differs from your state’s guidance. Most state and local orders follow recommendations from the CDC.
Personal protective equipment
You should implement social distancing. Most state and local authorities recommend or require it. Customers will expect you to have these protocols in place.
How can you encourage social distancing?
Screening is important for gyms due to frequent employee interaction with customers. Though federal agencies do not require it, local authorities might.
How can you screen employees?
Also, consider temperature screening for your customers, consistent with the above guidance.
Understand that these are recommendations—they are not required. But you should implement various precautionary measures to keep employees and customers safe. Promote the steps you are taking to give customers a sense of comfort as they get ready to return to the gym. Also, document the measures you adopt if legal issues later arise challenging the safety of your facility.
Please contact Jason Pill or any other member of Phelps’ Labor and Employment team if you have any questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, see Phelps’s COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.