Special areas and equipment
Liability will be lessened, and many adult patrons will be happier, if children and youth have their own workout area. When children and youth have a separate area, an appropriate supervisor (specially trained for working with children and youth) can be assigned.
Just as they need their own area, children and youth should have equipment that is appropriately sized for them. Further, it is crucial that children and youth be taught how to use each piece of equipment, and be carefully screened and tested before using the equipment.
Waivers and agreements to participate
Facilities have tried to avoid this problem by having the parent sign the waiver on behalf of the minor — but this usually does not work! In most states, a parent cannot sign away the rights of a minor child. Courts in a few states (California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin) have enforced at least one waiver signed by the parent.
There is always a chance that a waiver signed by both the minor and the parent might provide protection, so use it, along with an agreement to participate.
The agreement to participate is a document signed by the minor and the parent that warns the participant and the parent of the inherent risks of the activity, informs of the behavior expected, and has the signer affirm assumption of the inherent risks of the activity. The agreement will provide some liability protection for your facility, and should be used.