One of the most overlooked aspects of gym design and gym safety is the judicious placement of walkways throughout the gym. This is most important when preschool gymnastics classes and equipment are mixed with equipment and classes for older and larger gymnasts.
Without clear pathways, preschool, beginner and inexperienced gymnasts are in danger whenever they move from one spot in the gym to another. These gymnasts do not fully, or even vaguely, appreciate the dangers of moving through the gym, without a clear idea of how they might get hurt by other gymnasts.
Hazards Abound for the Uninitiated
Without even realizing it, gymnasts can be in danger when they inadvertently walk into dismount areas, in the path of tumblers, under the bars, across the vault runway, etc. Of course, it should be a major priority to teach young gymnasts what to look out for and how to be safe in the gym at all times.
Until they reach that point, it is much safer if there are clear, designated walkways throughout the gym that gymnasts can follow to wherever they need to go. The most important placement of pathways should be from the front desk, office and spectator areas to any and all preschool areas. Clear paths from preschool equipment to the bathrooms and water fountains are another necessity.
Walkways to Emergency Exits
Open walkways provide for a safe, quick open and unimpeded path to the emergency exits. Gymnasts, in an emergency, will have an unobstructed exit pathway and if the emergency exit walkways are clearly marked with a painted path or brightly colored mats (say red), in smoky conditions, gymnasts would be better and more quickly able to find their way out.
Padded Walkways Do Double Duty
If walkways are padded with mats, they can serve double duty as an overflow area for warm-ups, conditioning, stretching, handstand stations, etc., so that the space is not wasted.
Always a Good Design Feature
Of course, placing all the preschool and beginner areas right next to the front of the gym can reduce or eliminate the need for some walkways, but walkways are still a useful safety design feature.