A Smith machine is a weight training machine that consists of a weightlifting bar guided and attached to two fixed vertical guide rails.  The guide rails are attached to an overall frame that may include set pins or rails to control the range of vertical motion of the bar.  The bar may or may not need to be rotated to engage hooks into the safety pin or rail.

A woman was working out with a trainer in a high-rise apartment building’s exercise facility.  She was lying down underneath the bar of the Smith machine on a weight bench doing leg presses with her feet.  This particular Smith machine had regularly spaced pins in which rotation of the bar would engage a hook on the pins.

After doing a set of leg presses with two 45-pound plates (one on each side), the trainer stowed the bar in the elevated position.  The woman put her legs down to rest.  When the trainer added another two 45-pound plates, the bar fell onto the woman’s midsection, causing injuries.

Steps Taken:

  • ARCCA’s expert performed an inspection of the Smith Machine.
  • The facility was inspected for signage and condition.
  • The Smith Machine was load tested at each pin for a load of 225 pounds (the bar plus four 45-pound plates).
  • The expert reviewed a video of the incident.
  • The expert reviewed the maintenance history and facility complaints history with regard to the Smith machine.

Final Findings:

ARCCA’s expert discovered that the machine functioned exactly as designed.  There were no missing parts or fasteners, and the machine was assembled with level parts and on level ground.  The facility was properly signed per known standards, and the machine was labelled per known standards.

Based on testing, inspection, and analysis of facility videos, it was concluded that the trainer failed to engage two safety stops that were available on each side or guiderail for the bar.


Per testing, if even one safety stop was engaged, the bar would have stopped falling at the height of the safety stop.

The inverted leg press was not an exercise recommended for this machine because there is no way to rotate the bar with the user’s feet so that the hooks engage the pins.  A spotter or trainer I required to rotate the bar and engage the pins.

Based on the video analysis and inspection of the machine, it was determined that the trainer did not hook the pins properly after the first set of leg presses, but rather nose-hooked the pins.  As a result, the bar stayed elevated with the nose of the hooks sitting on top of the pins.  After putting on the last 45 lb. plate, the bar inadvertently rotated in the opposite direction of latching, causing the bar and weights to fall.   The trainer instructed her customer to perform an exercise on a machine contrary to its recommended use and did not set up the machine properly by engaging available and working safety stops.  The trainer also did not instruct her customer to get out from underneath the bar when loading the additional weights and did not hook the bar properly, thus causing the accident.

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