As the climbing gym industry continues to adjust to ongoing changes and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is all the more important to be familiar with the numerous organizations, agencies and health institutions that provide guidance and protocols (and, in some instances, requirements). Indeed, while many of these entities have overlapping objectives related to keeping the population safe and healthy, they often offer unique—and in some cases complementary—services and advice, applicable in different ways to any given gym right now.
CBJ Legal Analyst and author of the popular Ask a Lawyer column, Jason Pill, says it is critical for climbing gyms to stay current on all local and federal COVID guidelines for many reasons. “First, and perhaps most important, some of the guidelines are requirements that must be followed to allow your gym to reopen (and stay open),” says Pill. “Second, your employees and climbers will expect you to follow all applicable guidelines to ensure their health and safety. Third, if someone claims they contracted COVID from your gym and seeks to bring a legal action against the gym, one of the gym’s strongest defenses will be establishing its (hopefully) robust safety protocols and adherence to all applicable guidelines.”
Pill is an attorney with the law firm Phelps Dunbar and resident of its Tampa office in Florida. He also previously managed a climbing gym. The firm recently posted a report authored by Pill that specifies how and why the guidelines of different agencies—including OSHA, the CDC and others—are applicable to a gym in this COVID period.
For example, OSHA has not issued gym-specific recommendations, but has released “retail guidelines” that could be easily applied to a gym setting and seem to be the most applicable. The CDC has released comprehensive cleaning and disinfecting guidance that is intended to be applied to public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools and homes. And still many states, counties and local municipalities have released their own protocols related to gyms, so you’ll need to follow those authorities as well―in addition to keeping abreast of CWA recommendations.
Note: This column offers general advice and is not intended to be used as direct legal counsel. Gym owners should consult a lawyer for their facility’s specific legal matters. Pill can be contacted directly here.
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