Challenge high ropes


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021​​

This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA pla​nner must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations.

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template.

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in challenge high ropes courses as an activity to support curriculum delivery.

Challenge high ropes refers to any ropes activity where the participant’s safety can no longer be achieved by spotting​, and which requires safety systems such as harnesses, belay systems, specialist safety equipment or other established methods or systems.

Note: This activity does not include structures or elements that involve abseiling, rock climbing, artificial surfaces climbing or bouldering.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. challenge high ropes while camping) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

Schools should consider conducting this activity at a Department of Education Outdoor and Environmental Education Centre (OEEC)​ and consult with OEEC ​centre staff for risk assessment requirements.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions procedure.

Risk level

High risk

Any ropes activity for which the participant’s safety can no longer be achieved by spotting, and which requires safety systems such as harnesses, belay systems, specialist safety equipmen​​t or other established methods or systems.

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

All risk ​levels

Reference to Australian adventure activity standard, challenge courses Australian adventure activity good practice guide and worksafe safety alerts for high ropes adventure courses is required when planning this activity.

Permission/permits are required to be obtained from land managers (e.g. local councils or private landholders), if applicable.

Assessment and management of risks associated with working at heights must occur.

Due to the risk associated with falls from height additional fall protection must be applied.

Inspection and maintenance of the ropes course must comply with ​AS2316.2.2:2016—artificial climbing structures and challenge courses flying foxes and challenge ropes courses—operation requirements.

Routine visual checks must be carried out by the adult supervisor leading the activity before each use of the course to ensure there is no obvious damage; the site is safe and; the integrity of the safety systems.

Operational inspection must be carried out by an adult supervisor who has a statement of attainment from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) covering SISOCHC005—manage challenge course​ or similar every 3 months, or as indicated in the manufacturer’s instruction, to confirm no damage or degradation.

Periodic inspection must be carried out at least once every year by an independent certified inspection body (e.g. registered builder of challenge ropes courses) and to include routine visual check; operational inspection; assessment of worn components; and where the inspector deems necessary dismantling of parts; excavation to reveal condition of items underground and/or routine proof testing.

If challenge ropes course is built in trees, the trees must be inspected by a competent person annually or as advised by the manufacturer of the high ropes course.

Records and/or certification of inspections must be made available to participating schools.​



Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students' medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs. The challenge courses Australian adventure activity good practice guide should be consulted for supervision ratios and consideration given to:

  • the nature of the challenge ropes course elements
  • line of sight and sound for supervision and
  • belay system and transfer (dynamic, static or continuous).

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must assess weather conditions, and obtain accurate information other expected water conditions (if applicable) prior to undertaking the activity, inspecting the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must closely monitor all students, removing participants for the safety of the group or individuals, if applicable
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. poor visibility, extreme temperatures, high wind, rain, lightning, thunderstorms).

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least one adult supervisor is required to be:

Refer to the challenge courses Australian adventure activity good practice guide and SIS—sport, fitness and recreation training package for further information on supervisor qualifications.

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability.

Vehicle access must be available at all times.

An AS1892 compliant ladder of sufficient height to reach the closest foot peg for an adult supervisor to be able to access the course must be available.

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant (e.g. firmly fitting enclosed non-slip footwear, clothing appropriate to activity and weather conditions).

Harnesses, helmets, ropes and lanyards must be provided for all participants in line with the following standards and practices:

  • compliant with International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA), European Community (CE) standard or equivalent (refer to UIAA safety standards for more information)
  • harnesses must be worn at all times and fitted correctly when on course, and connected by a safety line (rope or webbing/tape) to an appropriate anchor point or belay
  • helmets must be secured and correctly fitted for the duration of the activity.
  • the belay system or lanyard arrangement is appropriate for the expected fall factor of a climber. Minimise the risk of entrapment or strangulation by arranging lanyards and connecting equipment to reliably maintain a sufficient gap between each other when loaded.

Equipment must be sized to match the ability and strength of students.

All equipment must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

A process for checking for damage for all equipment used in the activity must be established and employed.

A log of equipment use, maintenance and inspection for each course must be kept and made available to participating schools upon request.

Equipment (e.g. harnesses, helmets, ropes, lanyards) must be retired by manufacturer’s nominated expiry date or when significant wear appears that could impact the safety of the participant. A retirement of equipment policy developed.

Procedures used for belay systems must be suitable for the equipment and the task.

An appropriate safety system must be used when at height on all high elements.

Procedures and systems used should be consistent throughout the challenge course activity session.

An adequate rescue kit must be available and suitable for unassisted abseil, and/or haul and lower rescue techniques including, but not limited to, safety equipment used by adult supervisors as outlined in the challenge courses Australian adventure activity standard good practice guide.

If privately owned equipment is being used, Principal approval and owner consent/insurance details must be obtained prior to the activity.

Hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards
Control measures
Animal bites

Adhere to established practices regarding the use of insect repellent, outlined in insect viruses and allergies.

Brief all participants on basic first aid procedures for biological hazards they may encounter (e.g. snakes, ticks, leeches).

Environmental conditions

The school's sun safety strategy must be followed.

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Monitor participants for cold related illness (e.g. hypothermia) in cold weather conditions.

Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.

Facilities and equipment hazards Control measures
Faulty or dangerous equipment Check equipment prior to the start of each session. Pay particular attention to fastening systems when removable rope systems are used.
Student considerations Control measures
Injury Students aware of the location of emergency and first-aid equipment.
Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue

Continuously monitor students for signs of fear, hesitancy, loss of balance, fatigue, disorientation and/or exhaustion.

Adopt system of signals to clearly communicate the need for assistance if in difficulty.

Student issues

Conduct appropriate lead-up activities (e.g. trust, cooperation, communication).

Provide suitable options to allow 'challenge by choice'.

Provide scaffolded experiences to build participant skill level, knowledge and experience.

Adopt a system of signals to clearly communicate the need for assistance if in difficulty.

Guide students through an activity or provide a demonstration prior to undertaking the activity.

Use trained, competent spotters and belayers where appropriate.

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery) before participating.

Ensure fingernails and hair do not pose a hazard.

Implement procedures (e.g. buddy system, roll marking mechanisms) to account for all participants when participating off-site.


Ensure staff can easily recognise those students with health support needs and are familiar with their needs.


Belaying: refers to a variety of techniques used in climbing to exert friction on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far.

Spotting: support process provided by a person, or persons, who offer physical protection of the head and upper body of a person should they fall.

Webbing/tape: climbing specific tubular nylon webbing pressed flat. It is very strong. It can be made of Spectra/Dyneema or in combination with nylon.

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Last updated 18 April 2023