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Is it Time to Reopen your Condo Gyms?

In our prior post, we reported that (most of) Ontario is moving onto Stage 3, which means that most businesses and public spaces are allowed to reopen (with proper public health and workplace safety measures/restrictions). For now, nearly all of Ontario is moving onto Stage 3 as of Friday (July 17) except Central East, the GTA, Central West and South West.

This means that, for most of Ontario, your condo owners will be asking you to reopen your gyms/fitness rooms. So, what’s the scoop on fitness rooms in condos?

Tell us how your corporation has dealt with your fitness room during the pandemic by taking our short survey.

Can we reopen condo gyms?

As of Friday, condos will be authorized to re-open their fitness rooms (scary thought for many, including yours truly).

While most businesses and public spaces can reopen, Sports and Recreational Fitness Activities have been identified by the province as higher risks activities, requiring additional safety restrictions. In addition to ensuring that your condo complies with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, your condo will have to consider the following additional conditions and restrictions if it is going to open its fitness room.

  • Physical distancing must be maintained in your fitness rooms (except as needed for personal training or if playing a team sport (are AGMs considered a team sport?));
  • The total number of people permitted in areas containing weights or exercise machines is limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of at least two metres, and cannot exceed the current gathering limit of 50 people;
  • The total number of people permitted in classes or organized activities at any one time is limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of at least two metres and cannot exceed 50 people (100 people if outdoor);
  •  Assigned spaces are strongly recommended for organized fitness classes (mark circles on the floor to designate where each person should exercise);
  • Equipment must be cleared and disinfected between user sets or at the end of the game;
  • Any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities made available to the public must be cleaned and disinfected frequently;
  • Steam rooms and saunas are not yet permitted to open.

While the above applies, strictly speaking, to public gym, we are of the strong view that all condos should follow and apply the same precautions.

Should you open the gym?

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, the fact that you can does not mean  that you should.

Many corporations are under tremendous pressure to reopen their fitness room but, ultimately, the decision belongs to the corporation, who is responsible to control, manage and administer the common elements. Ultimately, if there is a community flare up, the corporation (as the occupier of the common elements) will be asked tough questions: What precautions did the corporation take to reasonably protect those on its premises.

In our view, the answer cannot be: users use at their own risk. Neither can a corporation impose on its owners a waiver or a release. Corporations cannot offload to owners their obligations to make their common elements safe to use.

These are some of the questions corporations should ask themselves:

  • Are they able to ensure the safety and health of those using the gym?
    • If not, don’t open your gym.
  • Do they have the resources to clean the weights and machines after each use?
    • Ensure you provide the required product but it is, in our view, insufficient to strictly rely on the users to do this.
  • Are they able to ensure the required physical distancing?
    • Think of physical barriers, think of visual cues on the floor.
    • Do you have sufficient staff to “police” such distancing?
  • Are they able to ensure that the maximum capacity limits will be respected?
    • Do you have the required staff to “police” this?
    • Can you put a booking system in place?
  • Can the existing machines be used safely while ensuring the required physical distancing?
    • Perhaps you want to remove some machines or only allow some of them to be used at any given time?
  • Do you have a way to know who used the equipment and when?
    • Will you be able to do “tracing” and advise other users should someone turn out to be infected?
  • Put signs warning and educating users about the risks associated with COVID and precautions to be taken.
  • Think of Health Screening forms to be completed and protocols to be agreed to by users.
  • Think of policies limiting and regulating the use of your fitness rooms.

We can help with all of this.  We have a ready-to-deploy check-list and protocol.

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Remember this, at the end of the day, corporations are not obliged to open their fitness rooms. If they do open them, they should take any and all reasonable precautions to protect the users but also to protect the corporations against potential claims.  It is far from certain that insurers will come to the corporation’s rescue should there be covid-related claims.

Let’s not test Darwin’s theory. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Tell us how your corporation has dealt with your fitness room during the pandemic by taking our short survey.

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Updated July 15/2020