Use of Waivers

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The use of waivers by YMCAs is becoming an increasingly important topic of consideration for staff members and boards. Opinions range from feelings that they are completely unnecessary to convictions that they are a proactive approach to reducing litigation. Our experience is that the signing of a waiver encourages patrons of the YMCA to be accountable for their actions, thus reducing the frequency of litigation, and the use of a properly prepared waiver reduces the success of any litigation that may occur. Some areas where waivers can be beneficial to reducing exposure to loss within a YMCA are below.

Membership Waivers

All members should sign a waiver/hold-harmless agreement indicating that they understand that participation in programs and use of equipment at the YMCA poses inherent risks that necessitate the users exercise appropriate care and caution. A sample general waiver may be found on our web site (see below).

Program Participant and Guest (day use) Waivers

All non-member participants or facility guests should be required to sign document that is both an agreement to follow the guidelines or rules and a waiver/hold-harmless agreement. This should be signed before they are allowed to participate in any program or utilize any of the facilities of the YMCA. These waivers can be kept in a booklet format, i.e., a single copy of the document itself with signatures of the participants or guests, as long as there is a clear assurance at each signature line that the document was read and understood. These waivers are very important! Experience has proven that non-members are far more likely to sue the YMCA than are members. If the participant or guest is a minor, their parent or guardian should sign as well. The wording can be similar to that of the general waiver noted above.

Fitness Room Waivers

Users should be given an orientation to fitness room or other exercise equipment. If they are of legal age and they do not desire the opportunity for an orientation, they should be required to sign a waiver. That waiver should clearly identify the potential dangers present from using equipment without proper orientation. It should also acknowledge that participation in an orientation was recommended by YMCA staff and state the participant’s decision to hold the YMCA harmless for any incidents arising from improper use, knowledge, or training regarding any of the exercise equipment present. Potential users who have not reached legal majority should not be given the opportunity to waive training. A fitness room waiver may be found on our web site.

Other waivers

Some facilities or activities, such as skate parks, roller rinks, triathlons, running or bicycling events held on public roadways, white-water rafting, rock climbing, etc. should have rules, waivers, and hold-harmless contracts to ensure that participants and their parents understand and accept the potential dangers associated with the activity and agree to abide by the established regulations. An example of such a document for skate parks may be found on our web site.

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

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