Authors: Siham El Rafei1, Mohammad Nassereddine 2, Ali Hammoud 3, Adel Olleik4
1,2,3 Faculty of Sciences, Lebanese University, Beirut, LB
4GATES Company, Beirut, LB
Siham El Rafei, MS
Lebanon- Tripoli-Tripoli- 1301
Siham El Rafei, MS, has a MS degree in Healthcare and Quality Management, and a certificate in Pilates. She is the owner of a Pilates studio, Physiopilateslb, in Tripoli, Lebanon.
Mohammad Nasseriddine, PhD, is currently an Assistant Professor at the Lebanese University in Beirut.
Ali Hammoud, PhD, is currently an Assistant Professor at the Lebanese University in the Biomedical and Bioinformatic Department, in Beirut..
Adel Olleik, MPH, DBA, worked as a CEO, consultant, auditor, and trainer in more than 250 healthcare organizations in Lebanon. He is currently running his own consultation firm, GATES, in Beirut, LB.
Assessment of readiness of Lebanese Gyms and Sport Facilities according to ISO-97.220 – Sports equipment and facilities
It is very difficult to mitigate all the risks involved in utilizing a fitness center. For this reason, ISO-97.220 – Sports equipment and facilities established the international safety standards that should be included in the sport facilities. The purpose of this survey is to assess the degree of readiness of Lebanese gyms according to these standards.78.67% of the gyms affirmed that they used international safety standards while preparing the sport facility. Correspondingly, only 60% of the gyms have a written emergency response policy and procedure and only 66.67% of the gyms conduct a safety audit inspection. Nevertheless, 84% of them have a preventative maintenance program and 92% of them have a system for removal of damaged or broken equipment.
Key Words: International guidelines, Facilities design, Emergency policy, Equipment management.
The fitness industry is growing in Lebanon, and there are many gyms and sport facilities all over the country (Rahhal, 2015) . Just in the past year more than 20 gyms opened in the north of Lebanon and in Beirut. Lebanese people are being more aware of their health and are leaning more toward fitness. However, there is no supervision made to assess the implementation of risk management procedures in the Lebanese sports facilities. We aimed to assess sports facilities in the following Lebanese regions: North, Mount Lebanon, Beirut, and South. Our purpose is to investigate if the gyms are relying on international guidelines and compare them with the ISO-97.220 standards.
Over a decade ago, Lebanese fitness industry has grown significantly, inspired by global trends of wellness and healthy living. The revenue of the fitness & health club industry in Lebanon was at around 122 million U.S. dollars in 2016 (Statista, 2016).
Sport providers have a legal duty of care to protect the welfare of the practitioners and ensure they are not exposed to risk in any aspect of sports delivery. For this reason, sport facilities and equipment should meet the standard requirements for safety of the particular sport. This must be evaluated by a risk assessment and reduced to a tolerable risk of performance according to standard regulation ISO/TC 83 (ISO, 2015).
It is critical that facility operators remain aware of conditions within their facility that could pose an increased risk to their employees, members, and users. Protective equipment is also important in injury prevention (Commission, 2011).
According to ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines, there are standards and guidelines for the risk management and emergency procedures that health/fitness facilities need to consider in order to provide a safe physical activity environment for its employees, members, and users (Tharrett & Peterson, 2012).
Several gyms were selected from different regions of Lebanon. The regions were selected based on a demographic distribution since most of the sport facilities are concentrated in the North region, Mount Lebanon and Beirut. A questionnaire was distributed to the selected sport facilities.
A checklist was distributed to the chosen sports facilities in order to identify the degree of readiness of Lebanese gyms, according to the ISO-97.220 standards, to adapt a quality management approach. The checklist is divided into subsections and lists all the crucial tasks, concerning maintenance, cleaning, and disinfection that should be done on a daily and weekly basis.
The questionnaire covers the primordial and most essential safety standards that must be applied in any sport facility. It includes both complex and simple requirements. The topics covered include preventative maintenance system, certification, emergency action plan, written emergency policy and procedure, use of AED’s and first-aid kits, presence of caution signage, and more. The base of the questionnaire is the ISO- 97.220 standards in addition to NSF and ACSM standards.
The checklist is centered on the basic maintenance and cleaning steps that should be followed on a daily, and weekly basis. There are detailed subsections about the equipment and each area of the facility, accordingly.
The questionnaires and check lists were distributed to 87 gyms across Lebanon. The response rate was 86.20% (75 gym). The operation years and location of these 75 gyms is showed in Table 1.
Table 1. Facilities’ operating years
|Operating years||< 5 years||8||9||10||5|
|5 to 10 years||4||9||8||4|
|> 10 years||3||10||4||1|
|Total per Region||15||28||22||10|
From a safety perspective, which occupies a high priority in our Questionnaire, the results were as following, 13.33% of the facilities did not use any standards, and 8% of the gyms said that they prepared their facility according to their own experience in the field while 96% of the gyms state that the percentage of injury is almost zero. 14.67% of the gyms do the assessment of the equipment visually, and 8% of them do not do anything at all. 6.67% of the gyms accept trainers without a university degree, but with a PT certificate. 12% of the gyms have trainers without any certificate, but they have trainers with experience in the field. Under the same title, 97.33% of the gyms state that their trainers are qualified, and only 2.67% say that their trainers are not qualified. 81.33% of the gyms affirm that their trainers have a first aid certificate from the Red Cross. 68% of the gyms do not have an AED. 17.33% of the gyms ordered it and are waiting for its arrival and 14.67% have an AED. Under the same title, 76% of the gyms do not conduct a review AED session, and 24% of the gyms conduct a review AED session every year.
From a human resources perspective, only 72% of the sports facility in Lebanon give a health questionnaire for their members. 76% of the gyms have a file for each member including personal information (name, address, contact number, emergency number, special case).
From a quality management perspective: only 60% of the gyms evaluate customer satisfaction by using a survey and 37.33% of the gyms orally ask their members if they are satisfied. Whereas 2.67% of the gyms do not do any kind of customer satisfaction evaluation.
Based on our results, we can say that more than 78% of the sport facilities in Lebanon referred to international safety standards when developing and designing the facility. Many of the owners used to live abroad and were already familiar with the international guidelines, for this reason they followed and applied the same system in Lebanon. Through this study, we noticed that some gyms were designed and prepared according to the owner’s experience in the field.
Most of the gyms stated that the percentage of injury at their facility is almost zero. They affirmed that all their trainers are certified and some of the gyms even require a university degree. As reported, only 12% of the gyms have trainers without a certificate. Moreover, 72% of the gyms provide a health history questionnaire to each member along with a member file. This verifies the low percentage of injury.
Most of the gyms (68%) do not have an AED because they rely on the Lebanese red cross in case an urgency such as a cardiac arrest occurs. Moreover, some stated that acquiring an AED is very expensive and needs ongoing training. They prefer to rely on the red cross team because their center is very close to their facility. Also, all the gyms affirmed that a cardiac arrest event never occurred at their facility. Therefore, it is explained why 76% of the gyms do not conduct a review AED session. However, almost 98% of the gyms have a first-aid kit and 81.33% of the gyms affirm that their trainers are first aid certified.
Only 60% of the gyms have a written emergency response policy and procedure and only 66.67% of the gyms conduct a safety audit. The remaining ones affirmed that they do the inspection, but only visually. However, 84% of them have a preventative maintenance program and 92% of them have a system for removal of broken or damaged equipment. The remaining 8% affirmed that the equipment’s company takes a lot of time to fix the equipment, for this reason, they fix it alone according to their own experience.
Less than 50% of the gyms have a warning system signage, and less than 62% of them have proper safety and emergency signage posted. Many of the gyms affirmed that they do not have anything of major risk that require caution signage. More than 80% of the gyms have a written system for cleaning and disinfecting the various areas of the facility, and most of them rely on cleaning companies. Other gyms have few cleaners always present in the facility in order to clean every hour the floor and the restrooms.
Almost 100% of the gyms have the physical activity areas separated from the storage and maintenance ones. Also, more than 85% of the gyms have open- access air circulation, fresh make-up air and areas well illuminated. About 7% of the facilities are underground, for this reason they do not have such air circulation. Only 58.67% of the gyms keep the stereo volume between 70-90 decibels, all the other gyms put the background music volume loud or according to their members’ request. Sadly, 72% of the gyms do not integrate a green design system. They affirm that to do so they require a huge budget, and that this is not applicable in Lebanon.
Exit sign is not used in more than 45% of the Lebanese gyms because they find it useless since they have only one exit door. It does not matter if the facility has only one door, there should be a sign posted indicating the emergency exit as well as certain caution signage post.
Furthermore, more than 70% of the gyms do not use chalk because they say it causes rust accumulation. About 35% of the gyms do not have stair-climbers and rowing machines because of its expensive price.
More than 95% of the gyms have an insurance plan coverage in case of emergency, but few of them have a written emergency action plan. Moreover, they do not conduct trainings for the staff to prepare them in case a tragedy occurs. They do not like much the paperwork, many of the tasks that should be written and checked are memorized and made visually.
Due to the big influence of famous trainers on social media platforms, such as Instagram, in the past 5 years, Lebanese people started to show more interest in sport and people started investing in this area. The demand for training is still increasing and Lebanese people are engaging more into sports in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Lately, the application of safety standards in sport facilities is being highlighted, but with some limitations.
The Lebanese sport facilities are on the right track, but they still have many specifics to work on. First, they need to work on the facility managerial culture that still discard important rules. Secondly, Lebanese people tend to do everything on their own skipping the step of searching for experts for specific situations. Finally, they should take the initiative of investing more on green design.
Lebanese people have shown increased interest in following a healthy lifestyle and are engaging more into sport activities. This led to the opening of several new sport facilities in several Lebanese regions. Unfortunately, there is not any law that obliges the facilities to follow international safety guidelines. Several simple and easy tasks must be done in order to provide a safe environment for sport practitioners. Maintenance of the equipment must always be done and precautions should be taken concerning fire, emergency lighting, access control, assaults, and fraud. It is extremely important to have an emergency action plan. It is critical that facility operators develop an audit and/or inspection process that allows them to regularly check the safety of their facility.
With this study we saw the weaknesses and strengths in the Lebanese gyms. One of the major weaknesses is the unavailability of accreditation for the sport facilities in Lebanon. The potential in Lebanon is very high since they are approaching a different system design and investing a great amount of money to improve their facilities to meet high standards. The majority of the gyms are within a safe range of compliance with the international standards, and more than half of them are already applicable in Lebanon. However, there are some details that are not being given the right importance and attention.
All these results cannot be generalized because the questionnaires were self-reported, so the managers may have given what they perceived as the “most correct answer”, the results are useful for future studies, and opinions determination. Additionally, managers might have answered everything as perfectly correct believing it will provide the perfect image for the facility. A greater attention is needed to a firmer application of the international rules.
Finally, through a frequent quality inspection and with the right plan for improvement, Lebanese gyms can achieve global high standards. This can be attained by the right guidance and help of consultancy companies. There should be periodic consultant visits to ensure the guidelines are being applied throughout the year.
APPLICATION IN SPORT
The Lebanese sport facilities should set a goal of implementing the ISO standards in order to provide a truly safe environment for members and staff. The results of this study should be taken into consideration in order to mitigate the weaknesses and increase the strengths of each sport facility.
Some great work can be done to improve and encourage the use of green design. 72% of the gyms do not integrate any kind of green design and this is very disappointing. All of them affirmed that it is very expensive to implement the solar panel energy system and that it cannot be applicable in Lebanon due to our energy problem conditions. However, little things can be done and make a huge difference for both the environment and the facility. It can be started with a simple step; by educating the staff and members about the importance of recycling, and the owners about the use of recycled papers, eco-friendly light bulbs, air conditioning, and equipment. A lot of effort and work can still be done, but our findings show a promising society which is trying to serve the community in a professional and up to standard manner.
This study was conducted during a healthcare and quality management program under the supervision of the Lebanese University in collaboration and partnership with GATES company.
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