Risky business ends careers


It’s easy to sign off on employment contracts and insurance policies without a second thought and assume you’re fairly treated and protected. How certain are you?
I ask this as claims against PTs are on the rise as reported from insurance companies and in mainstream media, many in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The world we live in is increasingly litigious and the onus is on you, the individual to do all that you can to minimise the risk to your clients, your business and ultimately yourself.

At Physical Activity Australia, we consistently speak with industry members and observe an alarming incidence of people unaware of the extent of their insurance cover or the conditions of their employment. In a challenging and competitive working environment and self-regulating industry it is essential that you give yourself the greatest chance of success and investigate these matters thoroughly.

Sure, risk management may sound like a boring topic, but there’s nothing quite like the excitement of a negligence claim against you for hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring it all into focus. These sorts of claims are happening regularly and without the appropriate due diligence, you are at risk. If you think ‘yeah, but it won’t happen to me’, or ‘I’m pretty sure I’m covered through work’ then you are fooling yourself and exposing yourself to risk through ignorance and potential career ending incidents.

If you blindly sign off on basic insurance policies without understanding them or any form of employment contract or agreement then you are uninformed regarding your responsibilities, risk management and adequate insurance cover for the activities you are undertaking.

There are plenty of examples to note, including a recent $200k negligence lawsuit in Brisbane with proceedings exploring the murky area of who is liable depending on the employment arrangements between trainer and gym. Could you answer this question with your current employment or insurance policy? How confident are you that you know your position in regards to liability as well as the adequacy of your insurance cover?

This all sounds sinister and while for the most of us, day to day operations carry on without a problem, it only takes one unfortunate set of circumstances to compromise a career.
Knowing the passion that so many of you have for your craft and clients, I believe it is critical to take this opportunity to safe guard all of your hard work. The flip side to the serious nature of this story is that it presents a great opportunity for you to implement good business practice, investing in building the confidence that you are operating efficiently, professionally and with strong knowledge of your business practices.

How can you ensure that you have done all you can to mitigate potential risks to you and your business? If you are offered a contractor or rental arrangement with a facility (or employment offer):

  • Read and understand your contract agreement thoroughly prior to signing
  • If you are not confident in your knowledge of the contract seek legal advice prior to signing
  • Ensure you are absolutely clear on your responsibilities with regards to safety, risk management and liability
  • Ensure you thoroughly understand all obligations with regards to duty of care for both yourself and the facility
  • Thoroughly understand the financial obligations of both parties – you want to know that you can make a sustainable living from your work

When purchasing insurance:

  • Ensure that you provide all relevant information to the insurer and have in writing that you are covered for your entire scope of practice
  • Many policies can be bought online – consider calling the insurer directly to discuss your needs
  • List all activities you will engage in through your professional practice and ensure you have them included in your policy as covered
  • Investigate all exclusions from your insurance policy and if you intend to deliver any of these exclusions seek further cover if you qualify for it
  • Compare prices and policies – saving $30 is of little consequence if in the case of a claim, you are not covered for the service you have been delivering

Have a risk management strategy for all business activity:

  • These are a fairly simple process. A sample strategy can be found in our Trainers Toolkit, or you can develop your own based from one of the many online resources
  • Use this document as a basis for your business practice in support of any insurance you have
  • As members of the fitness industry, we each have a stake in building and maintaining professional standards. Each and every trainer contributes through their education, training and professional practice. Underlying this is the critical due diligence we must do as an individual to thoroughly understand and manage our own businesses or employment. Too many fitness careers are cut short by lack of experience and preparation for running a business in our highly competitive arena.

    The fitness industry is self- regulating, without government regulation beyond a minimum standard for base education which is supported by ongoing fitness registration. It is critical that you thoroughly understand all of the above. Fitness registration, as a professional and ethical choice supports this practice and ongoing industry standards and helps us all work ongoing to build a stronger, higher quality industry.