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Controlling slip, trip and fall hazards in health club circulation areas

Approximately 17 percent of claims reported by Markel's Health and Fitness Club policyholders involve a slip and fall, or trip and fall. One proactive way to control these accidents involves keeping the circulation area free of hazards. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), circulation areas are spaces that allow users to enter, exit, and traverse the various physical activity zones. These circulation spaces are pathways that accommodate access to each area, including the functional spaces in and around exercise equipment. The ACSM outlines that circulation routes should be at least 36 inches (91 cm) across and should be located adjacent to the physical activity areas so that users do not have to pass directly through a physical activity area to access another area.

The ACSM further defines “open-access” circulation as spaces that provide adequate sight lines and convenient access and egress for routine daily use and clear exit pathways during emergency situations.

Recommendations provided by the ACSM to provide open-access circulation include:

  • Avoid blind corners in two-way circulation areas. This objective can be accomplished in several ways, including soft corners, low walls at intersections, mirrors, and appropriate warning signage.
  • Avoid the use of doors that open up into circulation paths and hallways. When doors are mandated by local codes or privacy situations, providing proper warning signage can help reduce any risk presented by these door locations.
  • Provide circulation areas that, by the nature of their design, communicate a path of safe passage.
  • Clear circulation areas help ensure that appropriate exit pathways exist that are both visible and accessible.

Additional recommendations to help control slip, trip and fall hazards include the following:

  • Keep circulation areas free of tripping hazards. Keep equipment cords, weights and other loose gym equipment out of circulation areas. Advise clients to not place bags, clothes, shoes, exercise ropes and other personal equipment on the circulation area. Keep child and pets out of the circulation area as well.  Post signage telling clients to be on the lookout for children or pets that may be present.
  • Inspect public areas. Inspect all public areas, including bathrooms and locker rooms frequently.Remove potential tripping hazards immediately. Maintain a log of your activities to help establish consistency.
  • Keep people out of restricted areas. Restrict access to hazardous areas and post a notice indicating the area is off limits.
  • Use absorbent mats on wet days. Place mats at all entryways. Make sure mats have slip-resistant backings and provide adequate coverage. Change dirty or saturated mats for clean ones, and replace mats that curl up at the edges. Post “wet floor” signs when necessary.
  • Keep walkways well lit. Make sure walkways, hallways, and stairways are clearly illuminated.
  • Maintain external walkways. Remove snow and ice from walkways and apply ice melt in areas that might refreeze. Repair holes in the parking area and remove obvious tripping hazards. Paint handicapped ramps with yellow non-skid warning paint to increase visibility.
  • Check your leasing agreement. If you are not required to maintain your leased premises, you must be persistent to ensure that your landlord performs necessary repairs. Document your conversations and send written correspondence confirming them. If the landlord is unwilling to work with you, it may be time to consider moving your business elsewhere.

Always document your maintenance and upkeep activities. You never know when you might need to validate your efforts.

Using signage to support your safety efforts

Signs are a great way to help advise your clients of potential risk and to help you communicate important safety messages.

According to Risk Management in Sport – Issues and Strategies, the following guidelines should be followed when using signs to warn members/guests about risks:

  • Signs should be professionally printed. Computer printouts and handwritten signs should be avoided. Professional signs will separate themselves from printouts concerning class schedules and other club announcements.
  • Signs should be posted no higher than 4' - 6' off the ground to ensure that they will be easily viewed.
  • Large print and borders should be used when creating a warning sign to make sure it stands out and grabs a person’s attention.
  • Sign sizes will vary depending on their location and the message they must relay. It is highly recommended that policy and procedure signs be at least 18'' x 24'' in size to ensure maximum visibility. Individual policy signs can vary in size and makeup. Decals can be used on mirrors to attract attention to rules.


  1. ACMS’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines – Fifth Edition.American College of Sports Medicine. Reno, NV. Human Kinetics. 2019
  2. Appenzeller.Herb. Risk Management in Sport Issues and Strategies – Second Edition. Durham, North Carolina. Carolina Academic Press. 2005