The NSF International joint committee on health and fitness facilities has passed the ballot for a standard for fitness facility certification, and it does not include a provision for unstaffed, 24-hour key-card clubs.

The ballot passed with a significant majority earlier this month, NSF International confirmed. NSF International is the not-for-profit, non-governmental organization based in Ann Arbor, MI, that is helping to create a standard for health clubs so that club operators and owners can volunteer to have their club certified under the guidelines of the standard.

The next step in the process is for the NSF Council of Public Health Consultants to approve the standard. The date of balloting is still unknown, according to NSF International, but sources say the standard could be approved early next year.

“Once the standard receives approval at the next level, then the process of creating a certification tool based on the standard will proceed,” says Stephen Tharrett, president of Club Industry Consulting, Highland Village, TX, who also is the deputy chair of the joint committee for NSF. “I am not sure how long that step will take, but my guess is that before 2012 is over, clubs will be able to pursue certification based on the standard.”

The standard, which includes definitions of the components of a health or fitness facility as well as forms for a facility safety audit and a safety inspection, could be released by next May, around the time that the fourth edition of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines is published. Tharrett and James Peterson, publisher of Healthy Learning, a Monterey, CA-based book and DVD publishing company, are the two senior editors of the fourth edition.

The main difference between the fourth edition and the NSF standard, Tharrett says, is the NSF standard will apply only to a staffed facility. That means that 24-hour key-card clubs that are not staffed around the clock, such as Anytime Fitness, Hastings, MN, and Snap Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, would be unable to pursue NSF standard certification. The staffed/non-staffed issue was a topic of discussion throughout the process of the ballot, which underwent several revisions.

“The joint committee felt that the standard would only apply to staffed facilities, something I also agreed with,” Tharrett says. “The NSF standard sets a bar that all felt was appropriate. The goal is not to … represent everyone, rather it is to serve the public by providing a standard we feel is appropriate from a safety perspective.”

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Mark Daly, national media director for Anytime Fitness, says Anytime has been monitoring the ballot process and providing information and feedback to the joint committee since the idea of developing a standard for fitness facilities was proposed four years ago.

“Given that key-card clubs like Anytime Fitness are the fastest-growing segment of the fitness industry, we suggested that it makes sense for the key-card club business model to be addressed in any standards adopted by the industry—perhaps as a sub-category of the standards or as a second set of standards,” Daly said in a statement. “However, the committee voted to adopt standards which are not applicable to facilities that offer access during non-staffed hours of operation.”

Daly declined to elaborate on Anytime’s model not being included in the standard that was passed by the joint committee. He instead referred to his statement.

Cary Wing, the director of business development for medical fitness at Fitmarc, Fort Worth, TX, a distributor of Les Mills programming, also has been monitoring the standard’s balloting process. Wing says she agrees with the notion that a facility has to be staffed in order to apply for certification.

“It’s obviously not a law,” Wing says, “but it certainly begins to set a baseline for the industry in terms of what a fitness facility should have to service the public.”