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Keeping the Germs Away

You can develop a three-pronged approach to create a cleaner workout environment for your members.

IT IS EVERY fitness facility owner's worst nightmare -- sitting down to watch the evening news, only to see an exposé of germ-infected fitness centers. Scenes flash on the screen of the investigative reporter secretly acquiring samples from different areas within the facility, and reporting findings of things such as e. coli, streptococcus veridans, candida, diptheroids and staphylococcus. To make sure this doesn't happen to you, you can develop a three-pronged approach to create a cleaner workout environment for your members.

Cleaning your facility

Cleaning and disinfecting your facility regularly is the first step to creating a healthy environment. Special attention should be paid to problem areas such as the locker room, shower floors, locker room fixtures, handles of weight machines, dumbbells and barbells, seat pads, and the displays and handles of cardiovascular equipment. Detailed cleaning logs should be kept daily, and initialed by staff members responsible for each area.

Cleaning should consist of the following:

* One major cleaning/disinfecting daily once the facility is closed.

* Spot cleaning throughout the day, which serves the dual purpose of disinfecting problem areas while promoting dedication to maintaining a clean facility in front of members. (It is important that the cleaning staff be somewhat inconspicuous by both staying out of the members' way and by not using cleaning supplies with a strong, harsh scent.)

Member rules and policies

Although diligent cleaning will reduce the amount of harmful germs in your facility, it is impossible to police the problem areas every minute of operational hours. Empower your members to help with the process by adopting policies that directly relate to controlling the spread of germs.

* If a towel service is not provided, require members to supply their own towels to 1) serve as a barrier between them and the equipment, and 2) use to wipe down the equipment after use.

* Provide members with either spray disinfectant or disinfectant wipes to be used on the equipment after each use. (Although disinfectant wipes are more expensive, they are often better received because they do not have the overspray that releases particles into the air and may irritate members.)

* Instruct members to wash hands before working out and after using the bathroom.

* Instruct members to cover all cuts and open wounds with bandages.

* Encourage members not to use the fitness center while sick.

Educate members

Educate members on how they can reduce the risk of germ transmission. Have them do the following:

*Use one side of their towel face down on all the equipment at all times, keeping the clean side face up for direct contact.

* Never touch their face during their workout, and make sure they thoroughly wash their hands before and after each workout.

* Always wear flip-flops in the shower, wash and dry their feet thoroughly, and use anti-fungal powder, if necessary.

Helping to promote and maintain a clean environment is an important responsibility not only for fitness center owners and managers, but also for the members. By creating readily available literature detailing ways your members can help keep the facility clean, combined with regular and thorough cleaning and disinfecting, you will be able to keep your facility clean and out of the evening news.

Cleaning Supplies

Using the proper cleaning supplies is an important consideration, especially when it will be used by your members. Some members may be hesitant to use a product that they deem might be toxic. Make sure you use non-toxic products, and keep MSDS (material data safety sheets) of each product on file for your members to view.

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