Spa Liability - Are You Paying Attention?
By Casey Olsen Owner, Spa Sources | October 28, 2008
We offer the following guideline as a starting point to bring to light just some of the safety issues that you may not have addressed within your facility.
Let's walk through your facility and address each area for its potential jeopardy.
The Spa Reception Desk is your first line of defense in protecting you and your spa guest. Most visitors to a spa call your Reception staff first to inquire about services and make their appointments for treatments. While your staff has the guest on the telephone, a mention of policy to include health limitations should be approached. A generic statement mentioning that if the guest has a health limitation, someone who can give them assistance must accompany them. Your spa is not a clinic and lifting a person out of a wheel chair, for example, can become an issue for both the guest and the employee doing the lifting. Your staff is not trained to treat or assist someone with this mobility issue and if this is nicely explained to the visitor, your opportunity for a problem is greatly reduced. Also, when describing or scheduling certain treatments, the guest should be told about certain treatment safeguards. If again, for example, a loofah scrub is requested, mention should be made that shaving the legs prior t this treatment is not suggested or exposure to the sun both before and following this treatment must be limited due to the potential of sunburn.
Having been a part of the resort spa evolution since the early 80's, I have seen certain cities now require that each guest sign a release form prior to entering the spa facility. When this was first introduced it was looked upon as an invitation for the guest to be alarmed, however, this is not what resulted. When the Reception staff states, upon giving the guest this form, "the city requires that all visitors to the spa read and sign this form", guests typically quickly read and immediately sign, showing no concern. We all are aware that release forms often do not hold up in court if there is grave negligence, but can help to support your property's' position simply by showing attention to your guests health and safety. Certainly, at the very least, a sign located at the Reception desk that reads "Please bring any health concerns or limitations to the attention of management prior to using the spa" is recommended.
Depending upon the extent of services your spa offers, the vast majority of facilities have either one or all of the following - Steam, Sauna, Hydrotherapy, Showers. These areas have some of the greatest potential for injury. Since we have little or no idea what general health your guest may or may not be in, regulating these areas are crucial. Allowing your spa guest to sit in a hot sauna or hydrotherapy bath without monitoring is a very large gamble.
It is well known that heat raises the heart rate and can potentially result in any thing from fainting and light-headedness to a heart attack or stroke. I have consulted and toured hundreds of spas in my career and the number one issue that I immediately bring to notice is the ill attention to heat therapy monitoring. Medical experts have recommended that spas limit the guests' individual heat usage to 7 - 10 minutes with a 15 - 20 minute cool-down before re-visiting any heat opportunity. Signage that states policy located in these areas of the facility will help with the enforcement of this policy.