Climbing Wall Safety Checklist

( The Department of Labour has had good pick-up of advice it issued to climbing wall operators after the prosecution of a Wellington operator for a serious accident.

The Department inspector who investigated the accident at Ferg’s Rock and Kayak in December 2008 felt the industry as a whole would benefit from additional information on climbing wall safety.

Department Workplace Central Regional Manager Brett Murray says the Department has since issued a “hazard bulletin”, including a safety checklist, to 35 operators of climbing walls nationwide to help them ensure they take all practicable steps, as required by law, to protect their customers.

“The material has generated significant interest,” he says. “Obviously these operators don’t want a repeat of the Wellington accident and have welcomed having guidance to follow, including Australian guidelines relevant to climbing wall safety.

“We’ve had positive feedback. The material has encouraged managers to discuss safety and review their processes, with one operator upgrading its training, supervision and operating practices, and another getting in a safety auditor and discussing staff training with one of our inspectors.

“While wall climbing has been around for a good few years now, operators still need to be prepared to learn and continually review safety – especially when they’re providing an activity with a very high customer turnover, many of them young children.”

As word of the information pack spread, other organisations have contacted the Department seeking a copy.

Mr Murray says that the Department had been concerned at the growing number of wall climbing accidents and believes the industry’s development of guidelines is important to improve safety standards. The Department will work with the industry as required to facilitate this.

The need for such guidelines was endorsed by the Greymouth coroner last month in his findings on the death of a woman after a climbing wall accident in Greymouth in April 2009.

The Department’s key messages to climbing wall managers are to ensure beginners are properly instructed in belay procedures and demonstrate competence before climbing, and to ensure constant supervision of the climbing wall. They also need to review safety procedures to ensure they meet minimum standards and ensure their lead instructors hold suitable New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association qualifications

Information on climbing wall safety can be found at the Department’s website

Media Release 6 May 2010 from Department of Labour.