Sports Law • Risk Management

Indoor Climbing Wall Risk Management

Indoor climbing gyms are a fun way to practice climbing in a controlled environment. As an owner or manager of a climbing wall, though, there are many things that should be done to ensure that it is a safe environment for its users.

When first setting up the routes, modular holds and ropes, be sure to follow the manufacturer guidelines for all installations. Once the installation has occurred, routinely inspect the wall, holds, ropes and anchors for wear or displacement. If possible, it is best to have the manufacturer also routinely inspect the wall. Before installing a new route, wash all modular holds and the climbing wall. Ultimately, though, each day prior to use, the facility should be inspected for cleanliness and for safety.

Regular inspection of all climbing gear is also important. Any equipment rented or provided to climbers should be visually inspected before any equipment is given to any climber. Equipment should also be re-inspected after it is returned to ensure that it is not worn or unsafe for future use. This double inspection should help prevent incidents that may otherwise arise should the equipment be faulty. It is also prudent to periodically replace gear even before signs of wear are noticeable. Keep records of all inspections of the facility and equipment as well as maintenance and replacement records.

In addition to providing a safe facility and safe equipment, ensure that all participants are properly trained on how to use the equipment. Participants who have not successfully proven their climbing competency should not be permitted to use the ropes or the wall without assistance. However, despite providing a safe space, good equipment, and sufficient training, it is possible that a person might be injured in the gym. Should someone become injured, it is important to try to minimize the impact of a potential lawsuit. Thus, all participants should sign a waiver and release of liability that was drafted by a licensed attorney. This waiver may need periodically updated, so have the document reviewed by an attorney every one to two years.

Hopefully, by implementing these few strategies, an indoor climbing gym can be a safe and fun place for all. At a minimum, follow the best practices of other climbing facilities to reduce the risk of an incident occurring on your premises.