The world is going through a shift that is requiring us to adapt to new surroundings and new rules for interacting with clients, friends, and family. Moving your fitness business online may be different, but it doesn’t need to be challenging and stressful – at least from an insurance standpoint. In this article, we outline some important and simple ways you can protect your work while thriving in this new era.
Overall Liability for Online Classes
Whether a class is in person or online, your liability lies in providing safe workouts or classes for your students. For online class safety, communication is KEY. Specifically, students need to know what level your class is for (i.e., beginner, intermediate, advanced, pro), and they need to understand what equipment is required. If your workout requires specialized equipment, such as an exercise bike, then be sure to include that in the information you provide before clients sign up for the class.
Ensuring your clients’ safety during an in-person class is somewhat easy, as you’re there to instantly see if someone needs help or if there is an equipment malfunction. In-person classes carry the responsibility of equipment maintenance and helping students get familiar with proper use, but in online classes that responsibility shifts to the participant. However, your due diligence increases with online classes, meaning that you need to perform more data gathering, ensure you get waivers, and you have to navigate the difficulties in ensuring a participant is ok to continue a workout just from watching them visually.
Don’t let this scare you off, though. If you prepare your own video equipment and test it out before your first class and discuss with participants the protocol for notifying you if they are having trouble, then you’re off to a great start.
Increased Liability for Interactive Classes
With interactive or live classes, your liability is about the same as it is for pre-recorded videos, but you have to remain vigilant in watching your attendees for signs of over-exertion and injury. This can be more difficult because of video quality, camera position, and the option for participants to turn off their video. We recommend that everyone participating in an online fitness class has their video turned on so that you can monitor them during the class. If you see that someone is in trouble, do not hesitate to tell them to stop the activity immediately and call emergency services if necessary. Treat it like you would if you were in person.
Any time payment info is transmitted on your website or any time personal information like address, phone number, email, health info, etc. is transmitted over the internet (even in email), there’s a risk that it will get stolen. Cyber liability insurance jumps in to help discover the source of the leak and stop it, identify your state’s specific requirements following a breach, and communicate with those who may have been affected by the breach. This can save you thousands and thousands of dollars and many hours of stress if something happens.
Many people think that only the big companies they hear of in the news get hacked. However, 55% of small businesses have had a data breach, and 53% have had multiple breaches, so it’s not all that uncommon for small businesses, they just don’t end up in the news.* Proper attention to security can prevent a lot of those breaches – for example, don’t give your password to anyone! Limit who has access to your clients’ information as well. Many of these small business breaches are the result of an employee’s carelessness.
In Summary: Online Liability Checklist
In the end, reducing the liability in your online classes boils down to preparation, communication, and diligence. Four simple steps can make a huge difference in your clients’ success and your peace of mind.
- Utilize pre-class questionnaires that gather some basic info about an online client’s medical status, fitness history, age, etc. However, keep in mind that this info is subject to HIPAA laws, so have the information submitted on either a password-protected PDF submitted via email or through a secure online form on your website (or over the phone/video call). PDFs can be signed using an online service like dochub.com or docusign. If you go the route of a form on your website, Cyber Liability insurance is even more highly recommended.
- Perform a functional movement/fitness assessment (even through video) for clients doing one-on-one sessions or that are doing more difficult, intense workouts.
- Communication is key. Be clear about the equipment needed, the precautions needed, and the fitness level of the class. Communicate throughout the class and check in on participants’ status by getting a verbal “ok” or a thumbs up sign indicating that they feel ok to continue.
- It’s a good practice to have videos available that demonstrate proper form. Film these ahead of time and make them available to your participants (especially new participants) before your class begins. This can help to reduce injuries occurring from poor form when you can’t be there in person to correct them.
Next, read about the location restrictions and considerations for online work in Part Two of this series.
If you have questions about your insurance coverage with Alternative Balance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
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