/ Climbing walls, rescue training and stuff

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mkean - on 13 Nov 2012
A bit of a random ponder that Google hasn't been able to solve:

What are the minimum requirements for training to run an indoor wall from a safety and rescue perspective?

So if you run a big climbing wall with leading and top roping would you be employing a couple of fully trained IRATA types at all times? Would you expect all climbing wall floor staff to be able to help someone release a belay plate that has eaten a finger?

Other ponderings may follow :-)
Neil Williams - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

"Would you expect all climbing wall floor staff to be able to help someone release a belay plate that has eaten a finger?"

In a really nice technical manner, or in the sense of "two or three people pull down on the live rope to release things just enough"? Or even the climber just gets back on the wall, using an easier route on the same panel if necessary?

Doesn't strike me as something you need very often, and when you do there are "less nice" ways of solving almost all problems (another example: if instructing and someone panics and won't let go when top-roping, it's often possible just to pull them off using the rope rather than going up for them).

Neil
AlH - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean: Walls in England/Wales must comply with various legislation in common with other sporting facilities including:
The Occupiers Liability Act 1957
Health and Safety at Work Legislation
Employment Legislation
Various Discrimination Legislation
Work at Height Regulations 2005 (2007) Amendment
PPE inspection regulations (PUWER, LOLER and WAH Regs are all relevant)
Walls constructed since its introduction must meet BS EN 12572
Scottish Walls fall under slightly different laws but they come to the same thing.

The sort of procedures you are referring to would come under the second of these areas. Walls are seen as 'sporting facilities' and as such are subject to inspection and enforcement by the Local Environmental Health Officer. Owners and Managers should ensure:
1. The facility is safe
2. The facility is properly equipped
3. That safe practices are used
4. That adequate training and supervision is available

The route to fulfilling these responsibilities will vary from wall to wall and owners and managers should take 'all reasonable precautions'. Thus a small private school wall might have very different procedures, staffing etc. from a large, busy commercial centre.
Guidance on what is appropriate is available from the principal trade body The Association of British Climbing Centres http://www.abcclimbingwalls.co.uk and The BMC through their Climbing Walls Officer Rob Adie and their excellent Climbing Wall Manual (which much of the above information is drawn from) https://www.thebmc.co.uk/the-bmc-climbing-wall-manual
In terms of staffing IRATA type competencies are relevant to maintenance issues and some rescue situations on the walls but most staff will be competent through a combination of Mountain Training NGBs and/or Site Specific Training and Assessment which should (IMHO) cover foreseeable incidents such as the one you mention. This training is usually provided by a knowledgeable MIA/MIC/Guide with extensive climbing wall experience.
maybe_si - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

i have been working at a variety of major indoor centres for the past 8years or so, as far as i can see they all vary massively, one centre required the duty manager to be either wearing a harness or at least carrying a harness with a basic rescue kit at all times and full training was received, another centre just had a brief chat about what may happen, anothet centre i have worked at i received absolutely no training or operating procedures at all!

So yeah, i think it varies a lot, as far as i can see the walls in the south are a lot more strict on safety procedures etc.

mkean - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to AlH:
Cheers, I'd had a look at those sites but I suspect most of the information I was interested in would require me to open my wallet ;-)

I've done a fair bit of risk assessment in the past but from an industrial perspective (secure sites) so I never had to factor in third parties which seems to make things interesting; I love a good grey area.

I was having an idle attempt at working out a CATNIP approach to wall management and what the absolute bottom of the barrel approach to training and staffing would be:

For instance could you opperate a wall with no staffing or supervision for users with a suitably watertight disclaimer and competancy statement?
AlH - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean: I know of at least one wall that has no climbing supervision but 'members' undergo an induction which includes details on contacting the emergency services in the event of a problem. I know of a Leisure Centre Wall which does not have climbers on the staff but they are trained on what to do in the event of an emergency (this training involves a ladder and/or the fire brigade!). N.B. these are not walls that I advise. I'm just reporting a historical knowledge of their procedures that may have been updated!
Disclaimers are of limited use in the UK. A Participation Statement such as the UIAA one used by both the BMC and the MCofS IS a useful step towards increasing the awareness of users (if informed consent can be demonstrated and good practise has been followed this may allow a defence of Vollenti non fit injuria in the event of a claim) but no-one can 'Disclaim' their rights to reasonable protection but UK Laws and regulations.
Competency Statements are ok but only provide a snapshot of users ability at a specific moment. Plenty of accidents happen to competent climbers who under scrutiny will easily demonstrate it. Wall accidents are often due to a momentary lapse. Hence the use of floorwalkers, encouragement of 'buddy checks' etc.
Neil Williams - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:

"For instance could you opperate a wall with no staffing or supervision for users with a suitably watertight disclaimer and competancy statement?"

There certainly exist swimming pools operated on that basis on e.g. small holiday parks. There also exist "open" bouldering walls, usually low down, in childrens' play areas.

I guess the added complication of more equipment (ropes etc) change things.

Neil
alooker - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Neil Williams:

> it's often possible just to pull them off using the rope

blimey heck
Neil Williams - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to alooker:

It's not nice but it works, and unlike going up alongside them it doesn't require more instructors to supervise the group / belay you when doing so (as an 18 stoner the option of going up the other end of the top rope using the Gri Gri that some train you to do is irrelevant).

It being a not-all-that-bad option when you've got someone there who won't let go was mentioned on my CWA, as was passing a long sling or other rope up, getting them to clip to the back of their harness and pull them off with that. It does betray trust and may well put them off, but if someone's in that position that they absolutely won't let go of the wall even if you've spent a good time trying to talk them into it and reassure them, they're probably put off anyway.

Obviously it doesn't work for a leader, as it might result in a dangerous fall. But CWA of course doesn't cover teaching leading, only personal leading.

Neil
rocky57 - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Neil Williams:

I admire your innocence.
alooker - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to rocky57: hehe!
Neil Williams - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to rocky57:

It's not something I have had to do yet, FWIW.

More seriously, what other rescue techniques are likely to be needed when instructing small groups of kids on a 11m top-rope-only artificial wall, particularly where belaying is generally direct off a ground anchor? (That's the only instruction I presently do, and the only instruction I'm likely to do in the near future)

Neil
AlH - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Neil Williams: Not many. Off hand and without seeing the wall or setups: assuming there is only one place to attach the belaying system to (so you don't have to worry about people clipping plates to gear loops, non load bearing parts of your direct belay etc.) then other things that spring to mind are the scenario you have already mentioned (dealing with a climber who wont come down), improperly fitted safety equipment (e.g. a non doubled back harness somewhere in the system), a detached climber (incomplete knot or detached from end of rope in some fashion), or a climber climbing off line and facing a pendulum.
All these problems are preventable and relatively unlikely with appropriate procedures and a good wall layout. That's why awards like the CWA tend to focus more on doing the 'good' bits well than just dealing with the, rare, bad bits when they occur.
Neil Williams - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to AlH:

Thanks.

Neil
jwa - on 14 Nov 2012
Another option to ascending the rope the climber is stuck on would be to tie off their plate and ascend the line next to them. Obviously in that situation you have the issue of what to do with the rest of the group. Another alternative is to send a friend up on the line next to them belayed in the normal manner, try to talk them down face to face and demonstrate how they need to let go and weight the rope or if that fails to attach to them and pull them off.
Jon Wilson - on 14 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:
>
> For instance could you opperate a wall with no staffing or supervision for users with a suitably watertight disclaimer and competancy statement?

Disclaimers do not negate your responsibilities under H&S law in the UK. As a supplier of a facility for people to use you would be expected to consider all potential issues and how they may be addressed taking into account the useage of the wall. This means that for most walls, except perhaps the outdoor open access boulder, there should be something in place. For small low use walls this may be basic training for onsite staff with the occational check of the wall. Up to large walls where it could be expected that there are trianed staff floor walking most of the time looking for potential issues.
RobbieT - on 14 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:
> "What are the minimum requirements for training to run an indoor wall from a safety and rescue perspective?
>
> So if you run a big climbing wall with leading and top roping would you be employing a couple of fully trained IRATA types at all times?"


I worked as a duty manager in a big climbing centre and no IRATA training, we also didnt specifically employee people with IRATA training although some of the staff were experienced in this field.

I was trained, in house, on various rescue techniques. Most of which have been mentioned above. I was also trained on route setter rescues which involved a lot of rope access techniques, use of IDs, shunts, Rigs etc.
The training was fun and although I was confident I'd know what to do if such a rare situation as a route setter needed rescueing occured it would definitely be a nerve wracking time if it happened for real.
woody5 - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean: I worked as an instructor at an indoor wall for over 16 years,only once did I need to get up the wall to help someone,if you consider someone may freeze on the wall i.e. a young child I would always put a back rope into their harness.
However it does worry me when I see instructors working with youngsters or other vulnerable people ,who are not wearing an harness themselves,if they do need to get up the wall quickly they need to be belayed,and before someone says any instructor should be able to solo up to a climber,consider this a pupil/client/child is on the wall 40 foot off the ground and having a seizure of some kind ,beleive me you don"t want to next to them unroped and unprotected.
hope these views are useful
jwa - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to woody5:
Ascending is definitely a last resort. I can't believe some instructors would run sessions without wearing a harness. Apart from anything else, where do you put all the gear you need?!
woody5 - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to jwa: I'm afraid it happens ,I am now retired but still take my grandkids to the wall I worked on.
Andy Say - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to mkean:
Interesting one Mr Kean! You can, of course, run a climbing wall so long as you are assured that you conform to good practice. That would normally come from a technical advisor holding whatever qualification was best suited (and ideally backed up with previous experience). It would be rare that you had any IRATA qualified staff I think (apart from route setters?).

But, yes, you should expect all floor staff to be able to deal with that 'fingerintheplate' scenario. That is 'simples'.

The real debate comes with the extent to which you might expect staff to be equipped to 'leave the floor' to perform a 'rescue'. I put the inverted commas around 'rescue' as that is normally a technique performed to save people at risk - and one might well ponder what is the real risk to little Johnny/Jane if they refuse to come down from the top of a wall.

That is an interesting debate that has implications for the CWA.
dasy2k1 - on 19 Dec 2012
In reply to mkean:

from my perspective of working in a major outdoor company that runs have a go sessions with a 2 rope tower in the stituation where we get a limpet we will bring down the child of the other rope, Instructor 1 locks off and escapes the semi direct belay, Instructor 2 belays instructor 1 up to where the probelm is , if we cant talk them into letting go or at least downclimbing, the not so nice method genrally involves attaching yourself to them (normaly by just holding on to them from behind) and delibratly falling off the wall..

this now leaves them and you dangling giving instructor 2 a change to lower the child while you fend off their rope preventing them reattaching. after they are back on the deck instructor 2 can lower you.
muppetfilter - on 19 Dec 2012
In reply to mkean: The only scenario I have seen in 20+ years of climbing that would require any type of advanced technique happened 17 years ago on the right hand side of the main overhanging wall of the Foundry (the square stepped overhangs) A leader fell off and as he swung, he spun and the rear haul loop of his harness clipped itself into a quickdraw, a smidgen of slack from his belayer saw him suspended face out and utterly helpless to remove the quickdraw.

After a rather embarassing 5 mins a combination of four people pulling down on his rope and adjacent climber managed to free him.


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