Insurance for Personal Trainers in Australia: Personal Training & Meal Plans

This article is a Public Service Announcement for those currently operating in the fitness, sports, & body-composition industries – as there are currently approximately 70,000 registered forms of coaches & exercise professionals who may not be practising their service delivery correctly.  There are currently over 20,000 open insurance claims in the fitness industry, with the majors averaging 2/wk – most of which settle through a non-disclosure, non-insurance payout.

Scope of Practise has been a buzz word in the fitness & allied health industries for the better part of the last decade. But do the people who use it actually know what it means? For those who don’t, or for those who think they do and actually don’t –

Scope of practice is defined as:

‘The procedures, actions, and processes that a practitioner is permitted to undertake in keeping with the terms of their profession.’

Back when I was completing some studies and setting up my first training centre, the meaning I attached to it was that you were insured for a service or activity- which was important as I wanted every coach, trainer and non-dietetic uni grad to have sports nutrition programming covered. Because we all know results are 80{ceec5af56135f94f4bfef870d3971a3b81e7951d1f0c83a482c9cbceacf5e058} nutrition right? 😉

Nutrition’s role in health, fitness & body-composition’s results is obvious and major.

So i sought out pathways to get myself (no longer a student) and other coaches to be covered, and after months of research and connecting with insurers and their underwriters, it turned out that there actually wasn’t a legitimate insurance cover for any personal trainers in the fields of Sports Nutrition, or Body-Composition. Why was this? Duty Of Care.

Duty of care is defined as:

‘A requirement that a person act toward others and the public with watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent.’

What this means in this context is that if your are providing services in Sports or Body-Composition Nutrition you must prove that the client is not exposed to any form of reasonably foreseeable risk, and is suitable to be working with that service.

Now nutrition involves an element of medical risk, like fitness does. So how do you qualify what is a foreseeable risk? Well like fitness before starting someone with exercise, you are required to use the PARQ provided by ESSA & Fitness Australia. No S&C, Sports Science, ASCA or Fitness qualification allows you to treat any condition, and required referral to the relevant insured Allied Health Provider for you to work with them. Back in 2012 when I was looking into this none existed (so for all the claims that people have insurable certs or programs, and you’ve invested in them, I’m sorry to tell you but they actually don’t), and only one medically recognised one exists now through the Metabolic Health Screen. This was authored and is constantly reviewed by a team of internationally recognised sports nutritionists and dietitians (including PHDs). This allows assessing the level of medical risk that someone is susceptible to. That way you can prove that every client you are working with is suitable for Sports Nutrition or Body-Composition programming as a service and that any who are at risk are referred to our network of Doctors & Dietitians for clearance so that you can continue to work with the higher risk clients (doing what you do best)  under the AHPs supervision, for whatever considerations they may have.

To be really simple and clear, you need:

  • Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI)
  • Public Liability Insurance (PL)
  • Malpractice (med)

You will see what is covered in your insurance based on their listed activities, which must include:

The malpractice is to cover you using the Screen. Without the screen you haven’t exercised a duty of care and your insurance isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. The reason that this is the case, is the very same reason that Fitness Australia no longer have powerlifting, or strength training in their listed activities for their scope of practice. Years ago a prominent figure in strength training, who never would screen clients, and believed that it was pointless and everyone’s issues were due to weakness (sort of correct, but not to this extreme) had a client injure themselves under their supervision. Whilst this is normal, and happens to coaches from time to time, he hadn’t pre-screened them and identified their injury risk of a history of shoulder injury and instability.  Where a referral & clearance would have been required to start a supervised program maintaining training intensity around the risk, combined with a rehab program, a heavy strength overload program was designed to help the assessed weak person. Subsequently, the client performed the program, destroyed their shoulder requiring multiple surgeries, and sued. The coach was insured, but the insurer was in disbelief of the negligence displayed by the coach, and counter sued the coach (somewhat unsuccessfully) and removed the coach from their policy and banned the activities they claimed to do (strength training, powerlifting etc.) so that no one would repeat the mistake, as well as requiring every client be assessed.  Now the coach has moved on to another scheme with the same non-screening belief until this happens again. The moral, if you haven’t screened with a nationally recognised screen, you aren’t exercising a duty of care and are acting negligently.

The only nationally recognised pre-screen is the trademarked Metabolic Health Screen. Run in conjunction with their Sports Nutrition Certification. The only undergraduate recognised educational program in the country, run in conjunction with the ISSN.

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