As the weather turns warmer, many employers are encouraging fitness activities or sponsoring employee picnics. Of course, fitness can improve your business by managing health care costs, reducing on-the-job injuries, and even reducing absenteeism. What about workers’ compensation coverage for those employer-sponsored recreational activities?

Under ORC 4123.01(C)(3), an employee’s injury at a company-sponsored recreational event or fitness program or activity may be covered under your workers’ compensation plan unless the employee signs a recreational waiver prior to engaging in the activity. Most employers understand the need to avoid this potential liability when sponsoring an employee picnic at a park or other public place. However, be careful that your after-hours employer-sponsored yoga program is also covered by the signed waiver.

Is your activity employer-sponsored?

  • The employer paid for or organized the activity
  • The activity was conducted at your place of business (or company-owned parking lot)
  • The employer supervised the activity
  • The employer paid an entry fee
  • The employer purchased matching uniforms or equipment
  • Only your employees participated in the activity

How can an employer avoid a wellness event from becoming a workers’ compensation exposure?

  • Bureau of Workers’ Compensation form C-159 covers recreational or wellness/fitness activities
  • Have employees sign and date the C-159 form before participation in the recreational or wellness/fitness activity.
  • The executed waiver form is valid for two years.

Should your company utilize the recreational waiver?

  • Some employers prefer not to utilize recreational waivers, preferring to allow such injuries to be compensable in order to obtain the immunity which workers’ compensation provides from other civil liability.
  • If you decide to utilize recreational waivers, be sure to contact your insurer to confirm that you are covered for any potential premises liability action.

Fitness and wellness sponsored activities have so many tangible and intangible benefits for employers. Where appropriate, though, do not let the benefits of good health increase your workers’ compensation exposure---consider using BWC form C-159.