Climbing and Challenge Course Guidelines


The guidelines below are suggested guidelines for customers involved in elevation risk exposures. These were developed after the summer of 2015 when we experienced a number of incidents and accidents involving elevated exposures.

  1. All staff working on the elevation risk exposures should be trained by a certified outside agency (ACCT Professional Vendor Member or PRCA), or trained by a staff member that has undergone train-the-trainer training (level 2 training). Second generation training is not acceptable. The training should national and local regulations.
  2. All belayers using Assisted Breaking Devices (ABDs), such as Petzl Gri-Gri, should be trained on the proper use of this device and its limitations. Regardless of the belay device in use, the belayer’s brake hand should never leave the rope and any movement of the brake hand should be done below the braking plane. Each organization should decide when and if to use ABDs.
  3. All persons working at the elevation risk exposure should be certified in basic first aid. It is strongly recommended that at least one person working on the course should be trained in advanced first aid or higher training while the course is open.
  4. Prior to the start of your climbing program each year, you should be in contact with the local first responders in the area and invite them to your facility. The purpose of this is to show them the climbing courses and elements, show them access to the area, and to build a relationship with them in the event of an emergency.
  5. All staff working at the elevation risk exposure should be documented and checked off that they have reviewed and trained in the written Emergency Action Plan.
  6. Prior to operating any climbing program, all staff should undergo skills verification. This test may include: (1) belay skills (PBUS method), (2) CPR and First Aid competency for certified staff, (3) emergency action plan scenarios
  7. All staff that are trained on the use of the equipment should undergo, monthly or more frequently in-service trainings. These trainings are meant to review basic requirements for the exposures at that site. In-service may include Emergency Action Plan (EAP) review and practice, as well as practicing daily procedures and reviewing protocol. At times, this training should include non-climbing staff responsible for action during emergency (e.g. call 911, bring AED, doctors/nurses, etc). Staff who miss the in-service trainings should not be allowed to work on the course until in-service training has been conducted.
  8. On outdoor climbing elements, helmets should be worn by all climbers and belayer’s when in the climbing zone at all times. This includes program participants and staff. On indoor manufactured walls with an auto-belay, staff and participants should follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for helmets. Helmets are not required by many auto-belay manufacturers.
  9. Staff working on any climbing elevation or challenge course should undergo Concussion Training every year. The CDC offers this training at no cost online:
  10. Annual inspection of the course should be undertaken by a certified outside agency (ACCT Professional Vendor Member) prior to opening the course each year and after any significant event that may have compromised any part of the course, such as severe weather. It is recommended that a different agency inspect the course than the PVM that built the course. Inspections should meet all local regulations. Document this inspection and retain documentation for a minimum of 5 years.
  11. Use redundant devices on parts of the course where possible. Install a fall arrest system where possible.
  12. Have a certified arborist inspect live trees, that are used to support challenge course and structures, at least every 5 years for tree strength, health, and maintenance. Document this inspection and retain documentation for a minimum of 5 years.
  13. Have staff inspect course and equipment daily, prior to use. On the course, look for debris and overgrown trees/limbs in course path. Check all equipment including harness, ropes, carabiners, platforms, cables, climbing holds, etc. Retire any equipment that is frayed or not working properly. Document this check on a log sheet, daily.
  14. A person on your staff should pass the test for an ACCT level 1 in-house inspector certification. You can learn more here.


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