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Revised Australian Standard provides detail on safety requirements for artificial climbing structures

Revised Australian Standard provides detail on safety requirements for artificial climbing structures
August 16, 2021

Standards Australia has advised that its standard for artificial climbing structures has been revised, with the new AS 2316.1 series providing greater detail for the safety requirements and test methods for artificial climbing walls and challenge courses.

The revision separates the original standard into three parts, covering belayed climbing and abseiling structures, bouldering structures, and climbing holds

Once a niche activity, sport climbing in Australia is growing fast in popularity, spanning from professional indoor and outdoor climbers to corporate team building days.

With its inclusion in the Olympic Games, sport climbing is now a highly diverse community of people looking for a fun and exciting hobby.

Technical Committee SF-047, Artificial Climbing Structures, has recently revised AS 2316.1:2009, Artificial climbing structures and challenge courses - fixed and mobile artificial climbing and abseiling walls, and has released three standards in its place which better articulate test methods for artificial climbing walls, non-belayed climbing walls and climbing holds to provide guidance to designers, manufacturers and facility operators to avoid injuries to climbers.

The primary aim of the Committee was to refine wording and include further detail so that the standards can cover any questions manufacturers or operators may have without being misinterpreted.

Introducing the revisions, David Eager, Professor of Risk Management and Injury Prevention at the University of Technology Sydney, and Committee Chair of SF-047, Artificial Climbing Structures, stated “the original standard was published at a time when there had been a number of serious accidents. Since the publication of this standard the number of serious accidents has dropped significantly. This is strong evidence of one of the net benefits to Australia of the artificial climbing structures standard.

“Working with professional engineers, regulators, facility operators and community stakeholders allowed us to separate the standard into three parts, and in doing so, include more detail to specifically set out a minimum safety requirement for climbers, boulderers, belayers and abseilers when using an artificial structure, of all skill levels.”

AS 2316.1.1 and AS 2316.1.2 are revisions of the former standard and have been separated to specifically cover belayed and non-belayed structures, while AS 2316.1.3 is an identical adoption of European Standard EN 12572-3:2017 which covers climbing holds. The identical adoption of the European Standard for climbing holds allows Australia to capitalise on the research and testing that has already been completed in Europe.  

A key change to part two of the standard series covering bouldering includes a hybrid test method for how bouldering wall impact attenuating mats are tested. With extensive testing already having been completed in Europe, the committee went one step further, factoring in a minimum height of fall, with additional tests on mats to be performed annually.

Roland Terry-Lloyd, Head of Standards Development at Standards Australia, added “with interest in climbing, bouldering and abseiling on the rise in Australia, the AS 2316.1 series of standards shows how experts and stakeholders can work together to create positive change for the climbing industry, providing the guidance needed to assist in building and operating artificial climbing structures.

“This includes looking to international examples to learn and build from and adopt if the benefit for Australians can be seen.”

The recently published standards are:

  • AS 2316.1.1, Artificial climbing structures and challenge courses, Part 1.1: Safety requirements and test methods for belayed climbing and abseiling structures
  • AS 2316.1.2, Artificial climbing structures and challenge courses, Part 1.2: Safety requirements and test methods for bouldering structures
  • AS 2316.1.3, Artificial climbing structures and challenge courses, Part 1.3: Safety requirements and test methods for climbing holds

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