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How can we promote safe practices in unregulated industry?

How can we promote safe practices in New Zealand’s unregulated exercise industry?

In 2017, there were 52,964 ACC claims for gym-related injuries in New Zealand – more than doubling the 17,694 claims made in 2011. Despite a 50% increase in gym users over that time, the injury rate is moving faster. In an unregulated industry, anyone can set themselves up as a personal trainer and provide exercise advice. So, how does a client know who to trust with their body?

Qualworx, in partnership with Exercise New Zealand, has developed FitSafe. This product audits the practices that an operator has in place to promote a safe experience for clients using exercise facilities. Certification as a FitSafe operator acknowledges that the facility has a strong client safety focus and meets not only its legislative obligations to the safety of its clients, but also the good practice principles of the industry.

A qualified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Nikki Williams has been working in the exercise industry for over 30 years. She is the first personal trainer in New Zealand to complete the Qualworx 'Safety of My Clients' Audit. We chatted to Nikki about the importance of qualified exercise professionals, and the process she went through to become FitSafe certified.

For you, as an exercise professional, why is it important to be qualified?

It’s the person that I am. I want to know what I am talking about; I want to be safe and effective for my clients. That means qualifying and re-qualifying, because when you’ve been in the industry for 30 years, things have changed, and I just knew that I needed to be qualified enough to be confident in what I was delivering.

How did you hear about FitSafe, and what made you want to get your FitSafe certification?

At last year’s Fitex Conference, I spoke to Jason from Qualworx and he told me about FitSafe. The reason I wanted to do it was because there is so much grey out there and really, health and safety is quite black and white, and I knew I would have gaps. I was doing the best that I could do reading what I was exposed to. REPs helped a lot with their quick checklist, so that was where I started, and I did what I could from that, and then I thought, right, I need to do more. So, going back to basics, it was about understanding what I had in place was correct, but also knowing where my gaps were. So, I looked at FitSafe, not as a way of telling me that I wasn’t doing what I needed to do, but just to tell me what I wasn’t doing. Jason didn’t come and tell me off, he said “you’re missing this bit and you’re missing that”, and then it was really clear to me what I needed to do, and the rest just fell into place.

Has the FitSafe certification been reassuring for current and potential clients?

Yeah, definitely. If I think about the people who are being drawn to me at the moment, I work in a semi-rural area, and there are a lot of small business people. They understand the level of health and safety that is required in their business, but to know that their personal trainer is doing their due diligence is important to them. Not only because they know that I’ve done that work and I am safe, but also the fact that this industry has to do it as well. I think for my clients, I have received a better response to gaining the certification than I thought I would. I think it’s another string to a personal trainer’s bow.

How long did it take?

The job site analysis forms took the time. Once I got them out the way, the other ones were easier. For me – and this will be different for every personal trainer, I work across five venues; I have one site where I work as a group fitness instructor and a personal trainer, so I needed to do a document for both of my streams in that facility. I also teach near a pool, so that’s different. I also work in a 24-hour gym, so I am on my own quite a lot. It was a very interesting exercise. Jason highlighted to me that now I have done the work, from here on out it’s just about re-visiting and reviewing the forms on a regular basis. The amount of work required at the beginning is not required again.

Was it worth putting in the time?

Yeah. What it’s given me is confidence. Confidence in being in that environment on my own, what I’m responsible for and what I’m not responsible for. There is some stuff that you would just do because you’re a decent human being, and there is some stuff that I am obligated to do. It is really, really cool to do that. I feel I have more confidence, and I am clearer about my role within the facility that I’m working in.

What kind of support did you receive from FitSafe?

Just as much as I needed. If I had a question, I could ask. I didn’t get a whole lot of spam, because we’re busy people, you know? He would say “are you ready for this? Have you sent me this paperwork?” Just the right amount. The actual interview itself, it wasn’t overwhelming, but it was full of information. It wasn’t full of talk: every piece of information Jason gave me was beneficial to my business and the way I deliver. He’s good at what he does. He is really worth the time and input. He just made my life easier.

Whether you have your own facility, or run a business out of someone else’s facility, you can become FitSafe certified. Get in touch with Jason ( to learn more.


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