Exercise in the workplace — Managing the risk

exercise risks

Healthy employees mean happy employees, and happy employees are good for business. One of the main trends in modern business is incorporating fitness equipment into the office environment. Whether that’s yoga ball chairs, treadmill desks, game rooms, ping pong tables, standup meetings, or a more conventional gym, employees want to multitask into fitness.

In principle, that’s a good idea. Promoting a healthy lifestyle, wellness programs, and encouraging good nutrition and fitness can all lower absentee rates. But, exercising in the office does have risks, and it’s vital you understand what they are and have policies and processes to manage them.

Possible risks and injuries from office exercise

It’s important to understand the types of injuries that can be caused by workplace exercise.

  • Slips and falls — Losing balance, colliding with furniture, falling over, and more can result in bruises, dislocations, and fractures.
  • Strains and sprains — Overdoing it or not understanding limits can result in torn muscles, ligaments, and other sprains and strains.
  • Other injuries — Scrapes, cuts, bruises, and more serious injuries can all happen if proper safety guidelines aren’t followed.

Liability and worker’s compensation

Of course, all responsible employers have workers’ compensation and liability insurance to cover any employment related injury. The only issue is that workers’ compensation insurance may not apply to injuries sustained while exercising in the office. To qualify for worker’s compensation insurance, an injury must generally be sustained “during an activity that is considered within the scope of an individual’s job.”

If an employee is injured outside of performing normal activities, workers’ compensation insurance may not cover injuries from exercising. This is a grey area though, and coverage varies greatly from state to state. Get in touch with us <link> and we can tell you what your policy does (and doesn’t) cover.

Balancing exercise with managing risk

You need to strike a careful balance between allowing employees to exercise at work and protecting your business from liability claims. Encouraging exercise at work is good for your employees, and shows you’ve got an enlightened approach to employee well being.

That said, there are several practical steps you can take to reduce your risk as an employer.

Require employees to sign a waiver

Have any employee who uses exercise equipment of any kind sign a waiver. This is good practice, and actually raises awareness among employees.

Ensure employees are properly trained on equipment

Require employees to understand how to use equipment safely. Have your health and safety assessor talk to employees to help them understand their responsibilities.

Require medical clearance for certain activities

For challenging exercises, or employees with conditions that may impact their ability, require medical clearance. Insist on written clearance from a doctor or other healthcare provider stating that your employee is in suitable condition to exercise.

Restrict access to equipment

Do not allow anyone to use equipment who has not signed a waiver. Limit access to equipment to employees only, don’t allow their friends or family to use the equipment.

With proper policies and processes, exercising in the office can be a great way to encourage employee wellbeing. Just use a common-sense approach, get the proper waivers in place, educate your staff, and enjoy the benefits of a healthier workforce.

Dave Sinclair, CEO The WorkPlace Solution


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About the author

David Sinclair is the CEO of The WorkPlace Solutions and Sinclair Risk & Financial Management.

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