Reopening Guide for Gym & Fitness Center Operators

Swimsuit season is nigh, and the end of the pandemic is finally in sight with the distribution of the first round of vaccines. Many are eager to return to their old fitness routines, leaving owners and operators scrambling to meet customer demand while keeping staff and patrons safe from Covid-19. Drip Hydration has compiled gym reopening information and resources into this brief guide to help you make and complete your checklist.

Understanding how Covid-19 spreads

As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 spreads primarily in the following ways:

  • From person to person through respiratory droplets released in the air from coughing, sneezing, or talking
  • When an uninfected person touches a surface contaminated by the virus, and then touches their mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Infected people without symptoms are still capable of spreading the virus

Although there is no current evidence that suggests the virus spreads through sweat, the nature of how easily it spreads does present a challenge for gym reopening.

The ‘Hierarchy of Controls’ for gym reopening

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the CDC created guidance for business owners to consider as they take steps to safely reopen, referred to as The Hierarchy of Controls. The CDC has taken this technique and applied it through a lens specific to gyms and fitness centers, which we’ll be exploring in this article.

Engineering controls – isolating people from the hazards

This step goes over modifications you can make in your venues and processes to reduce transmission of the Covid-19 virus. Changes to consider include:

  • Alter the layout of your center to ensure patrons using equipment are at least 6 feet apart from each other and employees: This includes each of your fitness areas, classrooms, rest rooms, employee-only areas, and any other common area where people may congregate. In the event that rearranging equipment to promote social distancing is not possible, consider unplugging alternating machines and marking them as off limits to ensure proper spacing between guests
  • Create physical barriers between individuals: This can be done using strip curtains, plastic barriers, or other similar materials. Barriers should be placed in areas where maintaining social distancing is impossible, such as at payment terminals
  • Enhanced ventilation: Ventilation should be adjusted to maintain humidity at 40-60% while delivering the most fresh air possible to indoor spaces. Any free-standing fans should be positioned to avoid directing air from one person to another – consider aiming them at open windows
  • Sanitation stations and reducing contact: Encourage healthy habits by placing hand washing stations or hand sanitizers in high traffic areas. Use touch-free stations when possible, and reduce high contact points in your facility where you can, like using foot pedal trash cans and contactless payment options
  • Visual cues: High-visibility signage like floor decals, colored tape, and signs can be helpful reminders to patrons and employees to abide by your venue policies and reduce virus-spreading behavior

Administrative controls – changing the way people work

Changing established routines while maintaining a positive image as an employer and business owner is a complex hurdle to clear when reopening. Gym operators should err on the side of safety to protect staff, patrons, themselves, and their businesses. Read on for more guidance on how to hit the right balance.

Experts recommend involving employees at all levels when developing workplace policies to reduce the risk. Employees with hands-on experience in the day to day tasks of running your facility are better suited to highlighting problem areas and suggesting practical, usable solutions. Involving your team and allowing them to be heard will promote confidence in your plan and motivate employees to comply with new practices. Other considerations as you draft new policies include:

  • Create a Covid-19 health and safety plan for your workplace: One of the best ways to inspire confidence in your staff is to have a clear policy regarding all things Covid-19. CDC recommendations include:
    • Designating an on-site Covid-19 coordinator: This person should be known to all staff, and all staff should have the ability to contact this person
    • Flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices: Employees and contractors who feel their income is at risk if they have been exposed or test positive are more likely to bring Covid-19 into the workplace
    • Have a clear plan for when someone has a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19: The sick person should be isolated immediately, and you should have a protocol in place to transport that person home or to a medical care provider. You may want trained back-up staff available in the event that an employee must self-isolate. Enhanced cleaning of your facility should happen after anyone suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19 was in your fitness center
    • Make sure the details of your plan are known and easily available to staff: Policies can only be implemented effectively if they are fully known and understood
  • Training and education: You and your employees should be sure to be informed of the following:
    • The signs of Covid-19, all related workplace safety practices and policies in the area(s) of their responsibility, and why they work
    • De-escalation techniques for dealing with uncooperative patrons
    • Their job duties as related to Covid-19 should be clearly defined (For example, someone actively tasked with guest safety, like a lifeguard, should not be simultaneously given duties related to enforcement of Covid-19 related policies like mask-wearing.)

Other prudent practices to consider as part of your gym reopening

  • Consider assigning staff to small groups that work together to reduce possible exposure
  • Explore modified job duties or remote work for employees at high risk of severe illness
  • Provide staff with masks and/or PPE equipment like gloves
  • Equipment and tools should be sanitized between users. Make cleaning supplies available to customers and encourage them to utilize it. You may wish to remove those items difficult to clean (Yoga mats and blocks, foam rollers, etc.) from your facility at this time
  • Make guest policy clearly visible and available both on-site and in any online presence you have so patrons can properly prepare for their visit
  • Cap capacity limits to enable social distancing. Consider continuing to offer virtual classes and events as an alternate source of income and promotion

The importance of health screenings and testing

There is no denying the vital role testing and health screenings play in stopping the spread of Covid-19. Health screenings are typically conducted on employees daily before beginning work. They can take the form of on-site temperature checks upon arrival, or surveys employees take virtually or self-screen at home prior to departing for the fitness center.

Testing is a valuable tool in determining if exposure resulted in an employee being infected, and determining when an employee can return to work. Employers should consider providing employees with information on where they may get tested in the event they are exposed or develop symptoms.

You should be aware of the status of testing centers in your area when dealing with employees trying to access tests. Waits several hours long and test shortages have been reported in areas heavily impacted by the virus. Some employers have chosen to utilize services of on-site medical service providers, like Drip Hydration, to visit their gyms and administer tests to employees. These can be arranged on an as-needed basis, or on an ongoing basis at regular intervals as part of a workplace health campaign.

Local mandates and restrictions

It is extremely important to be aware of the local rules that apply to gym reopening. We’ve linked resources for several major metropolitan areas below; owners from other areas should contact their local health departments and/or licensing entities for further guidance.


Let Drip Hydration Help You Get Up and Running

If you’re looking at a gym reopening in the near future, contact us for a consultation to determine the best testing plan for your business. With as little as 24 hours notice, one of our trained nurses can visit your fitness center and administer tests to your employees. If someone tests positive, we can guide them on what to do next – and you on how to continue operating safely.

Between our group and ongoing test discounts, our services might not be as expensive as you think. Your employees may also be excited to hear our group discounts apply to private in-home visits as well, and PPO insurance holders may be eligible for partial reimbursement of our services. We’re proud to partner with facilities focused on helping people stay healthy. Call us today!