Weight Room Safety and Open Gym
By Matt Komac, MSGIA Assistant Director for Property & Liability Pool Operations
and Harry Cheff, Certified School Risk Manager
How many times have you entered a school building and discovered students and community people utilizing the facility? The question many often ask in these instances is, “How did they get into the building?” Where a level of concern is raised is that many times the people are in the weight room or gym. These are areas of the school that require adult supervision when students are present. If community members are accessing these areas, one should ask if they have permission and if they went through proper channels to obtain access to the building.
Because allowing the use of your facilities by outsiders increases your liability exposure as well as the likelihood of a property loss, it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to minimize those exposures. One of the higher-risk areas of a school is the weight room and allowing unmonitored use increases the chance of injuries, and even fatalities, especially when weight equipment is used without a spotter. If your district allows public use of your weight room, then we suggest developing and posting a policy with the following requirements:
- No lifting until a signed release has been submitted and processed
- No lifting without a staff member present
- No accessing other areas of the building
- No students/minors can be in the weight room unless accompanied by an adult
- No lifting by minors below a set age
In addition to the recommendations outlined above, MTSBA Model Policy 4330 states that community members who use district facilities must abide by all school district rules and policies. If a school district is going to permit community members to use a weight room, that use should be conditioned upon submission of a completed facility-use agreement, acknowledgment of risk, medical insurance notification, and statement-of-conduct expectations. These documents should outline appropriate use, including but not limited to the following protocols: safe lifting techniques, key, and access code maintenance, supervision expectations and compliance with visitor conduct policies included in MTSBA Model Policy 4310, 4315 and 4332.
Oftentimes the most sought after space in the school is the gym. Basketball and volleyball vie for time in the off season to conduct out of season practices. These practices must align with the criteria set forth by the Montana High School Association (MHSA). In addition, every district should make sure that there is proper supervision. This is particularly true of high-risk areas such as the weight room, whirlpool, gym, etc.
MTSBA model handbook language states the following:
- Coaches are responsible for the supervision of their participants when student-athletes are engaged in school-sponsored practices, workouts, and contests;
- With the exception of those rare situations wherein a coach has made arrangements in order to attend to an emergency, coaches are not to leave their teams unsupervised;
- A coach may be held liable for financial damages if an unsupervised student-athlete suffers an injury;
- Coaches should always be the last person to leave the facility;
- Coaches are responsible for assuring their areas are locked and secured before leaving the premises.
The health, safety, and welfare of the students and the public who access the facility to lift weights or use the gym should be a priority. Each school should have in place rules, regulations, and policies that help to assure the facility is used in the manner consistent with board policy. Finally, communicating clearly and often with students, staff, and the community regarding the policy and procedures for accessing the school’s facilities helps avoid any unforeseen and unpleasant situations. Return to 2019 Fall Newsletter