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Exercise in the Office: Brilliant Idea or Accident Waiting to Happen?

By Nicholas Tait, Principal, Property + Casualty Division

clock January 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

workout.jpgEach new generation of workers brings their own values to the workplace. Millennials are no different. Travelers Insurance explored the changing face of the workplace in their recent report titled Workplace 2.0. The report identified a common theme among Millennials: an emphasis on work/life balance, including a focus on health and fitness.

Employers are taking note. It’s not uncommon in the workplace to find yoga classes, game rooms, sports courts, and gyms with all the amenities like free weights, treadmills and stair climbing machines.

These onsite exercise opportunities are great for attracting new talent, improving morale, and increasing productivity. But, they are also introducing a new set of risks.

Office Amenities, Injuries, and Workers’ Comp

Our clients often ask us about their liability and workers’ compensation when it comes to providing exercise facilities and classes at work.

“Will workers’ compensation cover my employee if they slip on a treadmill or twist an ankle on the basketball court?”

The general rule for workers’ comp qualification is to answer the question: Was the injury sustained during an activity that is considered within the scope of an individual’s job? If the answer is no, workers’ comp generally won’t cover the injury. Coverage differs from state to state, however, and an injury like this can fall into a gray area. You can research workers’ comp laws in your state here.

Managing the Risk of Office Perks

If workers’ comp won’t cover these types of injuries in your state, should you forego offering these types of perks to your team? Not necessarily. Supporting employees in practicing healthy habits, including regular exercise can provide many benefits to employers. Wellness programs are considered a critical component in employee development. There are ways to protect your company from these risks and still be able to provide attractive extras.

Here are some initial risk management measures that your business can put in place:

  • Liability Waivers: Require liability waivers. This common best practice also raises safety awareness among employees.
  • Medical Clearance: Consider requiring medical clearance for your employees to participate in on-site exercise activities.
    • If an employee’s pre-existing condition contributes to an injury while using workplace exercise equipment, it’s possible a workers’ compensation claim would go through, potentially impacting loss history and increasing costs in the future. Medical clearance would help prevent this type of loss.
  • Restricted Access: Allow only employees of the company, not friends or family, to take advantage of the amenities.
  • Safety Programs: Create a safety education program to teach employees how to properly use equipment. Post safety guidelines in easy view in game rooms, gyms, ball courts or playing fields.

Many of our clients are discovering the value of providing on-site exercise opportunities. Risk management strategies are helping address increased risk from these programs so that the companies can reap the benefits of a healthy, vital workforce. 

To get in the game, contact us for a complimentary workers’ compensation evaluation.

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Topics: Wellness, Property + Casualty

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