Real Life Climbing Wall Injuries: A camper suffered serious injuries after falling 30 feet from a climbing wall. The camper was using safety equipment including harnesses and a helmet. There was also adequate padding on the ground. The person who was belaying the climber got distracted and when the climber lost his grip and fell he was unable to restrain the fall in time. The climber fell 30 feet onto his feet, but the impact from the fall caused such a shock that three of his vertebrae fractured. The camper will require extensive surgery and live with limited mobility for the rest of his life.
Basic Climbing Wall Safety Tips
- Supervision: All climbing activities should be supervised by trained staff at all times. The climbing area should be closed any time a supervising staff member is not present.
- Training: All participants must be thoroughly trained before any climbing activity begins. Climbers must be able to demonstrate proficient skill in both climbing and belaying.
- Don’t climb higher than you are supposed to
- Put the harness on correctly: Putting on a harness correctly is one of the most important aspects of climbing safety. If a harness is not worn correctly it can fail to support a falling climber and result in serious injury or death. It is important for staff to make sure all climbers have put their harness on correctly and that no one tampers with their harness while climbing.
- Belay with an experienced climber: Belayers literally hold your life in their hands and it is important to ensure all belayers are experienced and comfortable with their duties. If an individual is new to belaying it is important to train them thoroughly and make sure they are comfortable with their duties and prepared to act in the event of a fall.
- Get the right equipment: Make sure that the equipment adheres to the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (U.I.A.A.) guidelines and standards. Never attempt to repair damaged or malfunctioning equipment.
- Wear proper shoes: Proper shoes are important for climbing safety so that you don’t slip. Sandals, flip flops, and dress shoes are just some of the inappropriate forms of footwear for climbing. Shoes should fit well and have good grips to avoid slipping.
- Practice falling: Falling is part of climbing and is likely to happen to everyone who climbs regularly. The best way to make sure belayers and climbers are prepared to respond to an actual fall is to have everyone participate in a practice fall. This gives the belayer warning so they know to be ready and safely belay the fall.
- Maintain adequate padding: Mats and padding are an important safety measure in indoor climbing and serve as the last line of defense in case of a fall. It is important all climbers have sufficient padding beneath them at all times and that it covers an area large enough to protect them no matter where they fall.
- Take small breaks: Overexertion and fatigue are leading contributors to climbing injuries and accidents.
- Practice correct technique: Proper climbing is safe climbing, and it is important to utilize correct technique while climbing and belaying. Keep three points of contact with the wall at all times and avoid hanging or swinging on the wall. Belayers should always keep two hands on the rope and maintain eye contact on the climber at all times.
- Watch experienced climbers: Watching experienced climbers will help you improve your own technique and learn safe climbing techniques.
Most Common Causes of Climbing Wall Injuries
Human Error: Improper Training
One of the leading causes of accidents from climbing walls is improper training. Kids are often eager to start climbing and may pressure staff to complete the training quickly. It is important for staff to thoroughly train all climbers and belayers and to test their ability before allowing any of them to climb.
Human Error: Improper Supervision
Training climbers is not enough to ensure safety. Even the best-trained climbers can be involved in an accident if they do not follow their training properly. It is important to have staff supervise all climbing activities to make sure the rules are enforced and all the climbers are climbing safely.
The major cause of climbing wall accidents is overwhelmingly the result of human error, but occasionally equipment failure can lead to injuries. To reduce the risk of equipment failure, it is important to check all climbing equipment prior to use. Equipment checks should include:
- Inspecting ropes for tears or frays
- Inspect ropes for stretching, warping, or any deformations
- Inspecting harnesses for tear and frays
- Check carabineers for cracks or wear and correct operation
- Check helmets for cracks or damage to straps
- Check the wall support structure
- Inspect wall holds and replace any loose or damaged ones
- Check the wall for any protruding holds that could cut or harm climbers
- Check floor padding to ensure it is adequate and no gaps have formed
Another important safety precaution is to maintain inspection logs to ensure all equipment is well maintained and inspected. It is recommended to inspect all ropes, carabineers, harnesses, and helmets daily. Inspect the wall and mat weekly. Keep accurate logs to make sure all the equipment is inspected routinely and thoroughly and instruct staff what to do if something is faulty.