Treadmill Safety


Someone once said “Exercise is hazardous to your health.” Though that statement was said tongue-in-cheek and we obviously believe in fitness and exercise, many of our members who have been injured during treadmill use might agree with it. During a recent 2 ½ year period, The Redwoods Group had 31 incidents involving treadmills. The injured have ranged from young to old…perhaps counter-intuitively most were in their 40s. Nearly 85% involved a fall: getting on, getting off, or from inattention to unexpected stoppage. The two things each incidence had in common were that the person was injured while using a treadmill and that they would have preferred not to have been so inconvenienced.

There is much we can do to reduce the chance of injury to our patrons and the potential for angry users and lawsuits to our organization. Please remember and observe the following.

Many incidents involve lack of familiarity

  • Equipment-specific orientations should be mandatory, not optional
  • Adults who feel as though they are sufficiently familiar with the machine may elect to sign an assumption of risk and release of liability in lieu of the orientation, but one or the other should be required

Many incidents involve inattention

  • Remind all users through signage, staff assistance, and training that dynamic equipment is potentially dangerous and deserves constant attention
    • Getting on: make certain the belt is not moving (perhaps use warning signs)
    • During use: stay focused, use handrails for support as needed
    • Getting off: remember to shut off the belt’s movement before disembarking the treadmill
  • Ensure highly visible markings that emphasize the belt’s movement; if the manufacturer’s markings are ineffectual use Crafts, Etc!® 150 Paint Marker or diluted White-Out®
    • Place 1” dots, camp logos, or similar markings about 36” apart along the outside edges of the belt
    • Stagger the dots about 18” from one side to the other to increase visibility

Some incidents involve over-exertion

  • Remind patrons not to push beyond their safe limits

Some incidents result from faulty equipment

  • Diligently maintain all equipment. Meet or exceed the manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Keep maintenance logs for each item of equipment. Show all cleaning, service, and repair, regardless of whether the service was done by outside vendor or in-house personnel
  • Remove a piece of equipment from service at the first sign of potential trouble
    • Unplug the equipment
    • Mark the equipment “OUT OF SERVICE” with a tag that patrons cannot easily remove
    • Also mark the equipment with a cone that requires physical removal before use

A jury recently returned a verdict of $9,000,000 for a treadmill injury. Fortunately, it was not against your organization, but the exposure and potential are the same. Don’t underestimate the potential for loss, both monetary loss as well as trust from your patrons.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about Camp risk management issues.


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