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Climbing Walls

Because of the inadequate training and inattention of a spotter, a teenage girl fell 20 feet off a climbing wall to the floor, severely injuring both legs and her back. Because of these injuries, she will experience lifelong medical problems.

Climbing walls and other extreme sports are growing in popularity, especially in organizations that are seeking to reach out to younger people in the community. The desire for outreach is commendable, but some organizations have not adequately planned for every aspect that an activity such as this brings to the facility.

Before engaging in such activities, sufficient understanding, planning, and training are necessary. The following are things that should be taken into consideration before utilizing an indoor or outdoor climbing wall.

Planning and Construction

  • Only a certified installer of climbing walls should be considered. Be sure to check their credentials and get references.
  • Hours of operation and supervision should be discussed and clearly posted.
  • Security of the wall, especially when not in use, is critical. Because of the attraction that these walls have, many people will want to try climbing them, regardless of who is present.
  • Check with your insurance company to make sure that an activity such as this will be covered under your current policy.
  • Consider getting a certificate of insurance from the company doing the installation.


  • The landing zone below the wall should be adequate to ensure safety in the event that someone should fall.
  • All participants should sign hold harmless and permission forms (minors).
  • A manager/supervisor who is certified to operate climbing walls should be present when the wall is being used.
  • All participants should be trained prior to usage and sign a form stating they understand the elements of the training.
  • Spotters/belayers should be trained as to their function of the operation.
  • Any accident or near accident should be documented.
  • A first-aid kit should be easily accessible.
  • No one under the age of 12 should be allowed to use the wall.

Inspection and Maintenance

  • A list of all the equipment used with a climbing wall should be kept on file.
  • All equipment should be inspected daily for wear and proper operation.
  • Any equipment that is in poor condition should be repaired (only if it can be done safely) or replaced.
  • The wall and all +holds should be inspected and documented regularly.
  • Should a portion of the wall need repaired, it should be shut down until repairs can be made.

Any activity in the organization that could cause harm to those who engage in it, should be discussed, planned, and supervised completely. Inadequate construction, training, inspections, and supervision of climbing walls could result in an unfortunate accident that not only could harm the reputation of the organization, but also the lives of the leaders and participating members. For more information on climbing walls (indoor and outdoor) and challenge courses, visit the Association for Challenge Course Technology. For further information on higher risk activities, visit the American Camp Association.


© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.