Just before Christmas, it was sadly reported in the papers that a 23 year old fitness fanatic, Kamrul Hassan fell a treadmill at his local gym and died from a head injury in August 2015. He had hit his head on the floor, triggering a fatal brain injury.
Recording a verdict of accidental death at the inquest, the Coroner, Louise Hunt, said that she would recommend the use of a safety wire on treadmills in Birmingham City Council’s gyms.
So much of safety management comes down to risk assessment, and so much of this is down to assessing foreseeable risks. So was this incident foreseeable? Yes it was. Any risk assessment focusing on an activity in a sport, leisure or fitness environment that introduces the possibility of a participant suffering a blow to the head, and running on a treadmill would definitely be one of those activities, must consider such an accident to be foreseeable. People fall off treadmills, anyone who works in a gym will know this can happen or has happened.
Whether this tragic accident was preventable is far less clear, and it is not for me to try to answer the question given the little information I have. The many issues, however, it throws up concerns, for example, the implementation of a policy insisting that all customers on treadmills make use of the safety clip or not, to what extent should adults be required to comply with a feature designed to protect their own safety, to what extent should fitness instructors be monitoring the use of this feature and then intervening when not utilised, and then to what extent should gyms be supervised? Certainly informing customers of the benefits of the safety cord just has to happen without fail, but beyond that there are a whole load of issues to consider when deciding how best to deal with the hazard that falling off a treadmill presents.
The Coroner understandably recommended mandatory use of the safety clip. It will be interesting to see how fitness clubs and centres respond.