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Shield Your Weightroom from Accidents and Lawsuits

"First, do no harm" is standard practice in the healthcare profession, and itís also great advice for coaches and physical education instructors. Unfortunately, in recent years commonsense safety procedures have been seriously neglected in school weightrooms. Failure to ensure safety for students and athletes not only puts them at risk for injury, it also invites litigation against schools and coaches. BFS is working to change that.

First, through our magazine, Bigger Faster Stronger, we are showing our commitment to regularly publish practical information about safety in the weightroom. You can access other such articles through our Website Archives. This is a free and valuable service, so please check out these articles and look for more in future issues.

Second, for the past 32 years BFS has been conducting coaching Clinics that teach athletes and coaches proper lifting and spotting techniques. Each year we conduct more than 400 such Clinics throughout the country (the popularity of these Clinics makes it imperative that schools make their reservations early). In addition, we have Weight Room Safety Certification for coaches that focus on safety and technique.


"What we can do is minimize risk greatly by doing our jobs as coaches, teachers, administrators and club owners by making sure that each day we open that gym door is a new day with a higher standard of care."

Marc Rabinoff, EdD
Full Professor and Chair
Department of Human Performance, Sport and Leisure Studies
Metropolitan State College
Denver, Colorado

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Safety and Liability In-Depth Information

Lawsuits against weight training instructors happen all the time. Thatís a fact. Itís also a fact that 80 percent of the litigations against weight training instructors involve injuries caused by inappropriate supervision. In other words, if youíre involved in a lawsuit, there is an 8 out of 10 chance that the plaintiff attorney will claim that you Ė or your staff, if youíre an administrator Ė were not supervising the weightroom properly at the time their client was injured.

In the area of professional standards, also known as standard of care, there are three basic accusations that a plaintiff attorney will make. They are as follows:

1. You Are Qualified to Do Something and You Did It Wrong.

You made a mistake. For example, you lost your concentration and did not spot a bench press properly, and the result was an injury to the individual performing the exercise.

2. You Didn't Do Something That You Were Qualified to Do and Were Supposed to Do.

For example, if you are trained in CPR and somebody is having a problem in your weightroom who requires CPR and you donít administer it, you could be held responsible Ė especially if being CPR certified is a criterion for you to hold that job.

3. You Did Something That You Are Not Qualified to Do.

You went beyond your area of expertise. For example, if an athlete gets hurt in the weightroom and you decide to set a broken bone, well, unless you have a medical degree, youíre probably going to be in big trouble when you try to put that bone back in place. And this is why I stress the importance of all weight-training instructors acquiring a certification specific to this field. If you canít justify your academic and professional practical background before you walk into a weightroom to coach trainees, donít walk into that weightroom!

One question Iím often asked when I lecture on the topic of weightroom supervision is "Why are coaches being sued?" And the answer I give them is that in about 90 percent of the lawsuits Iíve seen, the primary cause of the litigation was poor instruction. Did the coach teach that athlete how to squat properly? Did he follow appropriate warm-up protocols? Another, which is becoming increasingly common, is "Did the coach use the proper progression for that activity?"

"Weíre not like Don Quixote; we donít saddle up and go jousting with windmills. Weíre not supposed to wander around and try to correct every ill we see on the face of the earth. However, we are significantly responsible for our own activities where we are employed when we put that name tag on that says 'Weight Training Instructor.'"

Marc Rabinoff, EdD
Full Professor and Chair
Department of Human Performance, Sport and Leisure Studies
Metropolitan State College
Denver, Colorado

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Getting Started Safety and Liabiliity
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