According to Mark Beck, the senior vice president of K&K Insurance, one of the greatest risks yoga studios face is assuming best intentions lead to favorable outcomes. While yoga injury rates are low, they still happen. This is why safety and risk management should be a top priority for all studios, instructors and staff.
A studio can never be too prepared. It is better to prevent a risk from occurring, rather than problem-solving after the fact. But regardless, your studio and its employees should be ready for anything.
Risks come in many different forms, including student injury, an unprepared teacher, an unsafe studio and even insufficient insurance coverage.
Lee Geiling, a loss control manager for K&K Insurance, said yoga injuries are more common in senior citizens who go beyond their limits.
“Senior skills may be best developed in small classes that progress slowly to allow the instructor and student to realize when a limit is being reached,” said Geiling. “Start with the simple and move to the complex. Warm-up time may need to be extended when dealing with older participants.”
However, not all injuries come from the practice itself, but also from studio upkeep failures.
Beck explained many injuries to visitors and students occur from slipping, tripping and then falling over everyday obstacles such as wet or uneven surfaces, carpeting, electrical cords, stairs, and ramps.
A risk management issue that Jennifer Urmston Lowe, the national accounts manager for Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation, often sees with yoga studios involves planning special events.
“Any yoga studio planning an off-site event, such as a retreat, needs to let their insurance agent know ahead of time,” explained Urmston Lowe. “Their policy may not cover an off-site event or an overnight retreat. Most yoga studio policies in the U.S. will not cover travel outside of the country for a retreat.”
The best way to prevent risk within your studio is to be preemptive.
Urmston Lowe recommends asking your insurance agent if a special event or new programming is covered by your current policy — especially ones that could be of greater risk than traditional yoga classes.
Also, Urmston Lowe believes you should stray away from trending classes, such as bringing in animals or cannabis, until you have thoroughly planned for the additional exposure by acquiring proper licenses, revising liability waivers and updating insurance coverage.
When looking for an insurance partner, the best thing an owner can do, according to Beck, is find an agent or insurance company that is already familiar with the insurance needs of health and fitness businesses. “There are many agents and companies that target these types of businesses and, therefore, already understand the fitness industry and may have products or programs that are specifically designed for a fitness or yoga studio,” he said.
But remember, all insurance policies contain exclusions, so it is important to know what will and will not be covered, especially if introducing new classes.
Risk prevention also comes down to ensuring your studio is safe and clean. Beck recommends studio owners and teachers be mindful to do daily walk-throughs of their facilities. During these walk-throughs, look for tripping hazards, slick spots on the floor and anything else that might cause a fall.
“Lighting should be adequate for people to move easily, uneven surfaces and steps should be marked with a bright color or be well-lit, railings and supports should be checked for stability, etc.,” said Beck.
Along those lines, the studio must be maintained in a clean and sanitary manner, according to Geiling. “Thorough cleaning should take place before opening each day,” he said. “The cleaning can take place at closing if the fumes from cleaning agents are a concern.”
Geiling also recommends — especially for studios with animals, like dogs or cats — offering disinfecting wipes to students. Teachers should strongly encourage people leaving class to thoroughly wash their hands before eating or drinking, since contact with equipment or animals can lead to contamination.
Yoga comes in many different forms, so it is important to make sure your risk management reaches all aspects of the craft.
Urmston Lowe explained some of the best practices to lower yoga studio liability is to ensure aerial silks are a safe height off of the ground and to invest in good flooring in the studio. Additionally, she said studios should perform background checks on all employees and staff members.
On top of that, Beck suggests using a wavier and release form prepared by an attorney for every business where patrons are participating in physical activity. Physical injuries could result in a lawsuit, so businesses must be prepared to take necessary steps to prevent this from happening.
Other safety tips from Beck include having good locks on all doors, alarms for burglary and fire to alert authorities, getting plumbing and electrical checked periodically by professionals, and reducing the use of candles and incense to limit the chance of an accidental fire.
One of Beck’s best practices for lowering a studio’s liability is having the instructor always ask for consent before performing any hands-on adjustments. “Information is available through many of the yoga associations and other online sources on how to address these situations,” he said.
Regardless of what classes your studio offers, safety and risk management should always be your top priority. “The same level of presence an instructor or owner puts into their practice should be placed on making sure the studio environment is one that is safe for students and visitors,” said Beck.