Publish date: 31 January 2023
Corporate photography for Travis Schultz and Partners, Cairns

With the start of 2023 just behind us, many of us have made resolutions to get fit and exercise more. With lack of time being one of the most common reasons not to exercise, there has been an increase in the popularity of 24/7 gyms. Whilst these opening hours offer convenience and flexibility to their members, there are also several risks associated with these types of gyms, particularly when they are unsupervised. 

One of the main risks is the potential for accidents or injuries. Without proper supervision, gym-goers may not be aware of the proper use of equipment or may not be given appropriate instruction on how to use it safely. This can lead to injuries such as strains, sprains, or even serious accidents.  

In many cases people suffer injuries through no fault of the gym. Some accidents are just that, accidents. There are inherent risks when undertaking training, particularly resistance training that are unavoidable. However, some injuries are caused by improper use of equipment, inexperience, or the failure of the gym to take adequate care of its members.  

Without supervision, there is no one to ensure that members are correctly using the equipment, undertaking the exercises in a manner that is not likely to cause injury and following the safety policies and procedures that should be in place in every gym. This can create a foreseeable risk of injury to gym users and may result in the gym being held liable for injuries that may occur.  

It is also necessary for gyms to take a proper medical history from their members when developing exercise programs that are likely to be completed in an unsupervised context. Failure to develop suitable exercise programs that accommodate previous injuries and illnesses can lead to gyms being held liable for injuries to their members. An example of this is in the decision of Belna Pty Ltd v Irwin1. In this case Ms Irwin dislocated her knee whilst performing lunges as part of her exercise program developed by an employee of the gym. Ms Irwin had advised the gym of her previous knee injuries and they failed to warn her of the considerable risk of knee dislocation when performing lunges. As such the gym was liable for Ms Irwin’s injuries. 

Many gyms attempt to overcome this situation by having their members sign a waiver releasing the gym from liability for injuries that occur on their property. The waiver can limit the liability of the gym, so it’s important to read it carefully and understand the terms before signing it. 

However, it’s important to note that a waiver is not always binding and may not protect the gym from liability in all circumstances. For example, if the injury was caused by negligence on the part of the gym, a waiver may not be valid. In addition, if the waiver contains language that is unclear or if the terms of the waiver are not reasonable or too broad, it may also not be valid. 

In JFIT Holdings Pty Ltd t/as New Dimensions Health & Fitness v Powell Ms Powell was injured when she had to move heavy weights that had been left on the floor by previous gym users for her to access a piece of gym equipment. The gym had required Ms Powell to sign a waiver when she joined the gym limiting their liability for injury however, despite this, the gym was held to be negligent for failing to ensure that their staff inspected and tidied the weights area. In this case, the waiver offered no protection to the gym in avoiding liability.   

24/7 gyms can be a convenient and flexible option for gym-goers, but the lack of supervision can also lead to a range of risks. To mitigate these risks, it is important for gym owners to implement proper safety protocols, security measures, and regular maintenance and inspections. It’s also important for members to be responsible and aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions. 

If you are injured in a 24/7 gym, it’s important to seek medical attention, report the injury to the gym, document the injury and seek legal advice. Even if you have signed a waiver, you may still have a claim if the injury was caused by the gym’s negligence or misconduct. 

Beth Rolton
Beth Rolton
Partner & Cairns Leader
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