(Stock Photo)

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Scope

This document outlines the strategies for the safe management and operation of gyms in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

Introduction

The following guidelines are designed to provide owners and operators of gyms with clear actionable standard operating procedures to reduce exposure of themselves and their clients to COVID-19 while in these establishments.

The goal of the Ministry of Health and Wellness is therefore to ensure a comprehensive understanding and provide for the appropriate management of the risks associated with COVID-19 exposure. 

This is done in an effort to reduce exposure in the domestic industry.  In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the department will therefore:

  • Review, strengthen, and monitor the Health & Safety Policies
  • Strengthen personal hygiene practices (including hand washing, respiratory hygiene)
  • Give significant attention to cleaning of contact surfaces
  • Improve infection prevention and control measures using standard precautions (PPE), physical distancing, etc.
  • Monitoring of illness among employees

Note: These guidelines are subject to change, as more information on the virus becomes known.

Owners and operators are encouraged to continually conduct their own risk assessment to determine the risk of exposure and eliminate those risks where possible.  Where the risk cannot be eliminated, administrative controls such as social distancing should be the next option. Where these are not possible, the requisite PPE must be provided.

Employee Health Monitoring and Personal Hygiene

  • Members of staff who are sick should remain at home.
  • Any person experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, Shortness of breath or loss of the sense of taste or smell, must be excluded from the establishment immediately, and sanitation operating procedures (SSOPs) need to be followed strictly. Close off areas used by a sick person and do not use until the areas have been cleaned and disinfected.  If possible, wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect. If waiting 24 hours is not possible, wait as long as you can.  Ensure the safe and correct application of disinfectants.
  • Inform those who have had close contact to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay at home, and self-monitor for symptoms.  Follow the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ guidance if symptoms develop.
  • Employees absent from work due to suspected COVID-19 symptoms shall not return to work unless certified by a Medical Officer of Health.
  • Upon entering the facility, all persons’ hands should be washed or sanitized.
  • It is advisable that the taking of temperatures should be done. Any person with a temperature over 99 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5 degrees Celsius and above shall not be permitted in the workplace.
  • Face masks should be made available to staff.
  • All staff in the facility shall wear face masks when in the vicinity of others.
  • Single use masks must be discarded after each use.  Cloth masks must be laundered at the end of each use.  No masks must be worn for more than four hours at a time and should be changed if it becomes damp.
  • Workers must have face coverings available and wear them in the fitness facility, offices, or in company-owned vehicles when traveling with others. Face covering are particularly important if physical distancing cannot be maintained on the job (for example, personal trainers and staff assisting members with exercises).
  • Face coverings must not be shared.
  • Staff must wash their hands with soap and water, according to the handwashing protocol, for 20 seconds after using the toilet and before eating.
  • Immediately dispose of used single use sanitary items, such as: tissues, face masks, gloves, etc. in a covered garbage receptacle.
  • Observe respiratory hygiene (cover your cough, sneeze and dispose of any tissue used) at all times, and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Train all staff on the importance of frequent hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers with at least 70% alcohol content, and give them clear instruction to avoid touching hands to face.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene practices for both staff and staff, including soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and tissues.
  • Make hand sanitizer readily available to clients.  Consider touchless hand sanitizing solutions at varying points in the facility.
Upon entering the facility, all persons’ hands should be washed or sanitized. It is also advisable that the taking of temperatures should be done. (Stock Photo)

Workplace Policies & Practices to Protect Employee Health 

  • Vulnerable staff (those above age 65, those with chronic health conditions) can be assigned work that can be done from home whenever possible and should discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider to make appropriate decisions on returning to the workplace.
  • Alternate, staggered or shift schedules to maximize physical distancing.
  • Symptom checks may be conducted before employees may enter the workspace. Checks must include a check-in concerning cough, shortness of breath or fever and any other symptoms the employee may be experiencing.  These checks can be done remotely or in person upon the employees’ arrival.
  • Where physically possible, all workstations should be separated by at least six feet. If this is not possible, plexi-glass can be used as a barrier.
  • Break rooms, restrooms and other common areas should be disinfected frequently.  A written cleaning schedule should be put in place.
  • Insure breaks are staggered to ensure that six (6) feet between employees can be maintained in break rooms at all times.
  • Ensure staff and temporary or contract workers at the facility are properly trained in COVID-19 prevention policies and have necessary supplies and PPE.  Discuss these responsibilities ahead of time.
  • To ensure that masks are worn consistently and correctly, employees are discouraged from eating or drinking, except during their breaks when they are able to safely remove their masks and physically distance from others.
  • Disinfectant and related supplies should be made easily available to employees.
  • A copy of this protocol should be distributed to each employee.
  • Where possible each worker should be assigned their own tools, equipment and defined workspace. Sharing held items should be minimized or eliminated. 

Measures to ensure Physical Distancing

  • If possible, implement a reservation system for the facility.  Utilize the reservation system to contact patrons with reservations 24 hours before their scheduled arrival to confirm their reservation, and ask if they are, or someone in their household is, exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms. If the patrons answer in the affirmative, the patrons should be reminded that they should only utilize the fitness facility if they are not ill.  Such communication can be done via app, email, or text, if possible.
  • Avoid patrons queuing in the facility or outside, and help maintain occupancy levels.
  • All patrons are required to wear a face covering when at the facility, except when engaged in physical exercise or while training.  They should wear face coverings to the extent possible while in the facility, particularly when physical distancing is difficult.  Whenever a face covering is not worn because a patron is participating in exercise or training, then patrons should be reminded to keep a six-foot distance from others.
  • Gym occupancy is limited to 40 square feet per person of usable floor space. Only those patrons that are actually exercising should be inside the facility.  Patrons should not wait in the reception area.
  • Modify group training classes such as aerobics, yoga and dance to limit the size to ensure a minimum of six feet of physical distance between patrons.
  • Move the classes outdoors or to larger spaces, if possible.  Group exercise classes should only be offered if distancing requirements can be maintained and there is no person-to-person physical contact.
  • For high intensity classes such as aerobics, spin or conditioning or machines such as elliptical, tread or stair machines, consider placing individuals and equipment at least eight feet apart rather than six feet.
  • High contact programmes that require close contact less than six feet in distance should be suspended.  This would include activities such as group sporting events, organized intermural activities, pick-up basketball, or organized races.
  • Sports courts can be used for individual practice or for activities where six feet of physical distance can be maintained throughout the activity.  When people are waiting to use a court, a maximum time limit for court use by each participant should be implemented.
  • Participants who are waiting must practise physical distancing.
  • Yoga classes held in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.7 degrees Celsius should be discouraged.
  • Personal trainers are permitted if they maintain a six-foot distance from the client and wear a face covering. Patrons should be strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while receiving instruction.
  • Equipment can be marked off to ensure that clients can maintain at least a six-foot distance from others.  Tape or other markings assist customers in keeping a six-foot distance between them and others in any line.  A marking identifies both a starting place for customers arriving in the line and six-foot intervals for subsequent customers who are joining the line.
  • Stagger available lockers in locker rooms to maintain physical distancing.
  • Space all equipment and machines at least six feet apart, or take some out of service to achieve physical distancing.
  • Employees should maintain at least a six-foot distance from customers and from each other in all areas of the gym.  Employees may momentarily come closer when necessary to accept payment, deliver goods or services, or as otherwise necessary.
  • Ensure that the ventilation system is in good working order, to the maximum extent possible; ventilation should be increased.  Where air-conditioning systems are used, consider increasing maintenance schedules.
  • Contactless payment and check-in systems are encouraged wherever possible.
  • Perform thorough cleaning throughout the day in high traffic areas, such as reception and lobby areas, changing rooms, locker rooms, showers and break rooms and areas of ingress and egress, including stairways, stairwells, escalators, and handrails.
  • Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces, including personal exercise machines and equipment, countertops, vending machines, doorknobs, and hand washing facilities.
  • Require patrons to disinfect individual exercise equipment, mats, and machines before and after use with provided disinfecting wipes.
  • Ensure that lined, non-touch trash receptacles are available throughout the fitness facility to dispose of used wipes.
  • Workers should have enough ventilation (airflow) in areas where they are disinfecting.  If cleaning in a bathroom or other small space, make sure the door and windows are propped open.
  • Only allow shower and locker room use if partitions are in place, or signs have been posted to specify physical distancing requirements.  If partitions or proper distancing is not possible, these facilities should remain closed.
  • Ensure that sanitary facilities stay operational and are continuously stocked at all times.  Provide additional soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer when needed.  Install hands-free devices, if possible, including motion sensor sinks faucets, soap dispensers, sanitizer dispensers, and paper towel dispensers.
  • Doors to multi-stall restrooms should be able to be opened and closed without touching the handles, using opening-devices, or powered door operators with the hand, whenever possible. If the door cannot be opened without touching the handle or door-operator with the hand, place a trash-receptacle by the door to ensure a paper towel can be readily disposed of when operating the door.  The location and positioning of waste receptacles should not interfere with egress, evacuation, emergency equipment, or any reasonable accommodations provided for wheelchair access.
  • Signs should be placed in the restrooms encouraging patrons to close the toilet lid before flushing.
  • Make sure trash cans are emptied regularly.
  • Fitness facility patrons should be instructed that sinks could be an infection source and should avoid placing hairbrushes and other items directly on counter surfaces.
  • Totes could also be used for personal items to limit their contact with other surfaces in the restroom or locker room.
  • Patrons should be reminded to maintain a six-foot distance from janitorial or custodial staff.
  • Implement a process to regularly check with workers to ensure visitors are following this protocol.
  • Consider implementing a check-out system for patrons to utilize any small equipment and accessories (i.e. exercise bands, ropes, mats, foam rollers, etc.).
  • Develop a process to clean and disinfect these items upon return.
  • Wherever possible, install touchless, automatic water dispensers for use with personal, reusable water bottles or single-use, disposable paper cups. Display signage reminding staff and patrons that the bottle or cup should not touch the water dispenser.
  • If a touchless water dispenser is not feasible, remind staff and patrons to wash their hands or use proper hand sanitizer before and after touching the water release button on drinking fountains.
  • Customers are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.  Encourage patrons to bring their own towels and mats and consider disbanding the provision of any facility-provided towels or personal hygiene products.
  • For any towels, cloth wipes, or other laundered items.  Provide a closed container where patrons can place used towels or other items.  Ensure those items cannot be used again until properly laundered either by a commercial laundering service or an in house laundering process.  Store all clean linens in a clean, covered place.  Ensure that workers who handle dirty linens or laundry wear gloves.  Have a staff member provide the linens or other materials upon request, instead of setting up a self-serve area.
  • Amenities, including magazines, books, self-serve water stations (unless touchless), and other items for patrons, must be removed from reception areas and elsewhere in the fitness facility.
  • Non-essential vanity items should also be removed from locker rooms to help reduce touch points and guest interactions.
  • Use disinfectants labelled to be effective against emerging viral pathogens, diluted household bleach solutions (five tablespoons per gallon of water), or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol that are appropriate for the surface.
  • Workers using cleaners or disinfectants should wear gloves and other protective equipment as required by the product.
  • Consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in offices and other spaces.
  • Public restrooms should be sanitized regularly using approved disinfectants and following the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
  • Hand sanitizer, tissues and trash cans should be made available to the public at or near the entrance of the facility.
For high intensity classes such as aerobics, spin or conditioning or machines such as elliptical, tread or stair machines, consider placing individuals and equipment at least eight feet apart rather than six. (Stock Photo)

Public Communication

  • A copy of this protocol should be posted at all public entrances to the facility.
  • Signage should be placed at the entry and/or where customers line up notifying them of occupancy limits, requirements to maintain social distancing and that face coverings are highly recommended.
  • Fitness facilities must take reasonable measures, including posting signage at all entrances and in strategic and highly-visible locations, to remind employees and the public that they should practise physical distancing and that the use of face coverings is highly recommended.
  • Online outlets of the establishment (website, social media, etc.) should provide clear information about store hours, required use of face coverings in certain areas of the facility, limited occupancy, policies in regard to pre-booking, prepayment, and other relevant issues.

Ministry of Health and Wellness

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