Insurance for Personal Trainers –what are you covered for?
Getting the right kind of insurance coverage is vital for personal trainers. Read our fitness insiders guide to personal training insurance.
If you are training clients in a personal training capacity, you had better be insured. I know it’s painful to fork out the premiums every year, especially when it is so unlikely that you will ever use it. But on the off chance something goes wrong, at least you know you are backed by financial assistance that will prevent a long life of repaying huge debt.
Who provides cover for PT’s?
There are a whole host of providers that you can take out a policy with; if you are registered with Fitness Australia they will steer you towards Guild Insurance, and Physical Activity Australia registrants have easy access to their partner Marsh Advantage. A quick Google search will bring up a dozen more. No matter who you choose, it should set you back between $100-$200 a year, depending on the level of cover and the types of activities you are covered for (i.e. your Scope of Practice).
What do they cover?
1. Public Liability Insurance: This covers a claim against you for bodily injury or property damage to a third party that occurs from the process of your business as a Personal Trainer. The key here is that public liability doesn’t cover against you being negligent (we’ll talk more about this soon). It covers claims that come about from you breaching a duty of care you owe to the public, which basically means you did something morally, ethically or legally wrong and it caused someone or something to be damaged. Most insurers provide cover for between $10-20 million.
2. Professional Indemnity Insurance: This cover insures you against any claim that comes from a client who alleges that your professional advice as a Personal Trainer caused them loss. This could include personal injury, property damage or financial damage. The cover indemnifies you from any breach of duty that you owe as a Personal Trainer, which means that you are protected against legal responsibility for your actions and your policy will pay out against anyone that successfully sues you.
What does all that mean?
There are two terms that ALL Personal Trainers must understand: Duty of Care and Scope of Practice.
Duty of care
Remember that ‘duty that you owe’ refers to your duty of care, which I like to think of as just being a good and caring citizen, who recognises the responsibility to protect the health of the clients that contract your services. If you breach your duty of care for a client, you can be found to be ‘negligent’. For example, if you make zero effort to follow up on a client when they report pain after a session then you have breached duty of care. If you don’t pre-screen a client before training them and put them through vigorous cardio training without knowing about their heart condition, then you have breached your duty of care. If common sense is followed and you take appropriate precautions for safety, then generally speaking you won’t have a problem with duty of care and your insurance will be valid.
Scope of Practice
A Scope of Practice is a statement defining the role and responsibility of someone in an industry, and is often developed by governing bodies to ensure the members of that industry are aware of what they can or cannot do. It also helps the general public to understand what services and standards they can expect from industry members. Fitness Australia’s Scope of Practice for Registered Exercise Professionals can be found here.
In reference to insurance, if you are working outside your scope of practice then you are blatantly working outside your insurance policy and are therefore uninsured. For example, giving specific nutrition advice when you are not a qualified Nutritionist. The problem here is that the insurance providers often default to the scope of practice to see if the activity that you were doing with a client when they were injured was covered – and unfortunately the definitions are quite grey. There is no defined list of what is or is not covered, and Fitness Australia’s boundaries include ‘Development of safe, effective and appropriate exercise programs tailored to client or group needs’; and ‘Exercise delivery inclusive of demonstrating, instructing, monitoring, reviewing and modifying program content including technique, method and progression’.
In my personal experience, I have spoken to my insurance company to clarify if I am covered to prescribe Olympic Lifting to my clients. Initially, the answer was a flat ‘no’, but then it seemed that some progression exercises were appropriate while others were not, and some work with clients was deemed to be ‘Sports Coaching’ not ‘Personal Training’ which is outside of Scope and therefore not insured at all. However, my case was strengthened as I had undertaken formal recognised training in Olympic Lifting and therefore if something does end up going wrong, I am ‘more likely’ to be covered as I can prove adherence to Duty of Care and appropriate skills to back up my decisions.
So what am I covered for??
The key is to read the fine print. If you get the feeling what you want to do isn’t covered, speak to the insurance company directly or look around for another policy that will cover you. My best advice? Get it in writing, he-said-she-said doesn’t hold up in court.
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Tristan Hill, Masters of Sports Coaching, author of Lifting the Bar and mentor to Personal Trainers.