The Australian Fitness Industry Risk Management (AFIRM) Project was set up to explore the operation of rules and regulations for the delivery of safe fitness services. This article summarises the results of recent focus group research and a national survey of risk management practices by the AFIRM Project. Our focus group research in four States identified the following most important concerns: (1) the competency of fitness professionals; (2) the effectiveness of pre-exercise screening and the management of de-conditioned clients; (3) poor supervision of fitness service users and incorrect use of equipment; (4) fitness trainers failing to remain within their scope of practice; (5) equipment misuse (as distinct from incorrect use); and (6) poor fitness training environments. This information was then used to develop 45 specific items for a questionnaire that was disseminated throughout the fitness industry. The survey, which is the largest ever conducted in the Australian fitness industry (n = 1,178), identified similar concerns. Our research indicates that efforts to improve risk management in the fitness industry should focus, first and foremost, on the development and monitoring of safety policy, and improvements in the education and training of fitness instructors to ensure that they can incorporate risk management practices.
Fitness facilities are an important contributor to economies through preventative health policies of governments. Therefore, it is crucial that they are capable of ensuring the health and safety of their users during emergency situations under relevant work health and safety (WHS) legislation. This study aimed to analyse emergency response preparedness in fitness facilities in Australia and develop evidence-based strategic recommendations, using a mixed methods approach. An onsite observational audit tool and in-depth interviews were conducted at a sample of regional and metropolitan fitness facilities. The results showed that fitness facilities showed a lack of operational emergency response practices that requires an integrated approach to risk management by fitness facility operators. This gap between policy and practice has significant implications for all stakeholders involved in fitness service provision, including government agencies, academia and industry governing organisations.