Zip Line and Challenge Course Safety

Article 

The Redwoods Group

Posted by The Redwoods Group on July 7, 2015

On June 11, 2015, a 12-year-old girl died after falling from a zip line at camp. At this time, the incident is under investigation and we ask that you join us in offering our continued thoughts and prayers to the young girl’s family and to the camp staff during this unfathomably difficult time.

We recommend that you review your current climbing, high ropes, challenge course and zip line procedures. The following guidelines may help to prevent accidents and injury on your course:

Recognized Standards: Verify that your existing challenge structures were installed in accordance with recognized national standards, PRCA 1.0-.3- 2014 or ASTM F2959. These standards were developed by Professional Ropes Course Association and Association of Challenge Course Technology. If your course was installed and inspected by an ACCT or PRCA preferred vendor, you likely meet these standards.Both national standards are voluntary, unless they have been referenced in local/state regulatory language. Check your local and state regulations to see if these standards are required for your course. Even if they are not formally required, there is an expectation by US courts to follow or exceed the stated safety guidelines by professional associations such as the ACCT or PRCA. 

Course Construction: The best practice is to hire a professional designer and constructor. Do not build your own course without an architect and engineer involved in the process. 

Staff Training: Train all staff operating the course according to ACCT or PRCA standards. This training needs to be conducted by a certified trainer, and all staff should be “first-generation” trained. This means any staff operating or supervising the zip line or similar adventure apparatus cannot be trained by one of your staff who's been through certified training (ie, “second-generation” training). Second-generation training can be a temptation when you have to replace staff throughout the summer. Please do not succumb to this, but rather choose to close the operation until it can be properly operated by first-generation trained staff. And, of course, under no circumstances should you assign untrained staff to operate or supervise zip lines, climbing walls, challenge courses or similar adventure apparatus. Finally, always keep training records for all staff.

Staff Commands: Add commands to be relayed between staff and staff/camper. If Staff A is at the top of the zip line and Staff B is on the ground, the commands could be:

  • Staff A to Staff B: “Preparing [camper’s name] to zip.” (Prepare safety checks of camper’s equipment.)
  • Staff B: (upon visual confirmation): “[Camper’s name] is prepared.”
  • Staff A to Staff B: “Clearing [Camper’s name] to zip.” (Check course and unhook anchor tether.)
  • Staff B: (upon visual confirmation): “[Camper’s name] is clear.“
  • "Camper to Staff A: “Zipping?”
  • Staff A to Camper: “Zip away!”

Redundant System: If you don't currently have redundancy built in, please check with the installer of your current zip line to see if you can add a redundant system to the existing line(s). Installation should be performed by a professional. If you're building a zip line, build one with redundancies.

Annually Inspect Course(s): Have an outside agency, preferably one other than the manufacturer, inspect your course annually and after any severe weather event such as hurricanes, tornadoes, high winds, etc.

Daily Inspect Equipment: Inspect all equipment before use each day to look for any weaknesses in the ropes, harnesses, carabiners, etc. Keep a log of these daily inspections.

Close and Secure When Not in Use: Make sure the structures and equipment are secured when not in use by locking the equipment down.

Thank you for your attention to this extremely important topic. Please stay safe.

Categories: Property Safety General Safety Camp

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