Climbing and abseiling (artificial surfaces)


​​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 planner 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 climbing and/or abseiling on artificial surfaces with specialised equipment and ropes an activity to support curriculum delivery. This refers to any activities involving climbing and abseiling on all artificial climbing walls and abseiling towers specifically constructed for this purpose, including those in gymnasiums. It also includes singl​e-pitch​ top rope climbing and abseiling and multi-pitch​ climbing and abseiling activities.

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 low ropes and group activities 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:
Single-pitch climbing, top rope climbing​, but not lead climbing​.
Extreme risk:
Multiple-pitch climbing, single-pitch lead climbing, single- or multiple-pitch abseiling.

Refer to glossary  for further information.​

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 an​d use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

All risk level​​​s

Reference to Australian adventure activity standard and abseiling and climbing Australian adventure activity good practice guide 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.

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

Inspection and maintenance of the artificial climbing structure must comply with AS2316.1-2009—artificial climbing structures and challenge courses—​fixed and mobile artificial climbing and abseiling walls​​.

Routine visual checks to be carried out by a competent person before each use of the artificial surface to ensure there is no obvious damage the site is safe and the integrity of the safety systems.

Operational inspection to be carried out by a competent person every 3 months, or as indicated in the manufacturer’s instruction to confirm no damage or degradation.

Periodic inspection to be carried out at least once every year by an independent certified inspection body (e.g. registered builder of artificial climbing structures) 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.

Record and/or certification of inspection of artificial surfaces 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.

At least two adult supervisors, one of whom is a registered teacher must be present. In certain situations, there may need to be smaller or larger numbers of participants per adult supervisors.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the nature of the climbing/abseiling elements, belay system (top managed, bottom managed or autobelay), students' ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs. The abseiling and climbing Australian adventure activity good practice guide should be consulted for supervision ratios.

Due to the risk associated with falls from height, the safe conduct of these activities requires the use of spotters in order to protect the participant’s upper body and head from heavy contact with the ground. Spotters are required when the feet of the participant are up to 1.8m above the ground (e.g. lead climbing activities before first clip) AS 2316.1-2009).

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must inspect the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers
  • if artificial climbing occurs outdoors, weather conditions must be assessed prior to undertaking the activity.

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.

Supervisor qualifications

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:

High risk level

Extreme risk level

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.

Inspection of staging and climbing areas must occur immediately prior to the activity.

All facilities, structures (e.g. wall fixtures) and equipment (e.g. ropes, harnesses, slings, carabiners and chocks) used must be manufactured specifically for rock climbing/abseiling and must comply with the Australian Standards AS 2316.1-2009 for use and maintenance and International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) specifications.

All equipment (e.g. ropes, harnesses, slings, carabiners and chocks) manufactured specifically for rock climbing/abseiling and must comply with the Australian Standards AS 2316.1-2009 for use and maintenance and International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) specifications.

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 retirement schedule must be developed to replace equipment by manufacturers' nominated expiry date or when significant wear causes a hazard.

Establish and employ a process for checking for damage for all equipment used in the activity.

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

Equipment listed below must be manufactured for use in the context of the activity and meet the relevant EN, UIAA/CE or Australian Standard:

  • accessory cord
  • artificial fixed anchors used in artificial climbing or abseiling structures
  • ascending devices
  • belay devices appropriate to the activity and location
  • carabiners or other connectors
  • descending devices
  • dynamic rope
  • harnesses connected by a safety line (rope or tape) to an appropriate anchor point or belay where exposure to a fall exists
  • helmets
  • Lanyards
  • pulleys
  • slings
  • static rope
  • any other equipment that is part of the safety system used.

Abseiling/rappelling rope long enough for the descent and a top-rope safety rope used in addition to the abseiling/rappelling rope.

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

  • Harnesses, helmets, ropes and lanyards that meet UIAA safety standards, EN358, EN361, EN813, EN12277, AS/NZS1891.4 or equivalent
  • 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 that meet UIAA or EN12492 standards must be correctly fitted and secured for the duration of the activity
  • the belay system or lanyard arrangement is appropriate for the expected fall factor of a climber to minimise risk of strangulation.

Appropriate vertical rescue equipment suitable for unassisted abseil, and/or haul and lower rescue techniques must be readily accessible including, but not limited to:

  • ascending devices
  • belay device
  • connectors
  • knife
  • pair of pliers or multi grips
  • pulleys
  • prusik loops
  • webbing tape
  • alloy or steel carabiners
  • rope long enough for the longest pitch
  • safety harnesses
  • slings.

Personal equipment must be provided for all participants including (but not limited to):

  • helmets correct size and fit and appropriate for protection from falling objects
  • harnesses must be worn at all times and fitted correctly
  • clothing appropriate for the activity and weather conditions
  • firmly fitting, enclosed non-slip footwear appropriate to the terrain
  • access to drinking water.

Consider using backpacks to carry equipment and edge protectors to protect ropes from abrasion damage.

Matting/soft fall of sufficient density to absorb body impact on the floor must be at the base of the climbing wall in accordance with AS2316.1-2009.

Base of climbs/abseils must be cleared of potential hazards.

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
Environmental conditions

The school’s sun safety strategy must be followed if participating outside.

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
Falling from height
Assess and manage risks associated with working at heights.
Faulty or dangerous equipment

Remove any equipment from the activity area that poses a risk to participants.

Ensure all safety equipment is in place and in good condition.

Student considerations Control measures
Injury Students aware of the location of emergency and first-aid equipment.
Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue
Monitor students for signs of fear, hesitancy, loss of balance, fatigue, disorientation and/or exhaustion.
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.

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.


Have students wear easily identifiable clothing (e.g. high visibility rash vest). 

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


Abseiling: descending vertical or near vertical natural surfaces or artificial surfaces using ropes and descending friction devices to manage the descent. It is also known as rappelling.

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.

Climbing: ascending, traversing or descending vertical or near vertical natural surfaces or artificial surfaces. (Also see Rock climbing).

Lead climbing: where the climber ascends a pitch while periodically attaching their rope to fixed or removable protection.

Multi-pitch: a section of a natural surface or artificial surface that to ascend, traverse or descend, progress is made by using more than one pitch and establishing belay systems mid route.

Rock climbing: ascending, traversing or descending vertical or near vertical natural surfaces. At times also used to describe climbing on artificial surfaces (also see climbing).

Single-pitch: a section of a natural surface or artificial surface that requires no greater than one length of rope to ascend, traverse or descend.

Top rope climbing: climbing where the belay system has its anchor or anchor system at the top of the pitch and uses either a top belay or bottom belay.

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