Terms of Use

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Climbing - Climbing Wall and Related Activities


Secondary - Curricular 2018

Portable Installation on School Site, Permanent Installation on School Site, Permanent Installation on Commercial Site

For wall climbing programs where students may belay.

This activity page must be presented to the activity provider prior to the activity taking place. The activity provider must meet the minimum requirements listed on this page. For more information on planning trips using outside providers, consult Appendix O - Outside Activity Providers.

Consult Climbing - General Procedures.


A fully stocked first aid kit must be readily accessible. (Consult Appendix D - Sample First Aid Kit)

A working communication device (e.g., cell phone) must be accessible.

Determine that all equipment is safe for use (e.g., no sharp edges, sharp corners, cracks, or splinters). Students must be encouraged to report equipment problems to the teacher.

All equipment must be commercially and specifically manufactured for the intended climbing related activity and adhere to one or more of: UIAA, CE, NFPA, ULC, CSA, ASTM standards.

All equipment must be inspected by qualified personnel prior to activity.

The belay rope must be compatible with the chosen belay device and the climbing activity.

Climbing harnesses, sit or full body, appropriate to the age and/or body size of the climber, must be used.

Belay devices must be connected with a locking carabiner rated at 22kN/2200kg/4945lbs., where commercial friction or camming devices are used.

For all indoor walls, mats (e.g., Velcro utility mats, wrestling mats) must be in place at the ascending and descending points.

Top anchors must have 2 individual points or a belay bar. Top anchors must have locking devices. Climber must not be able to climb above anchors. Top anchors must be able to sustain a load of 22kN/2200kg/4945lbs.

Bottom anchors must be one of: 2 individual floor anchors, or belayer harness, (a belay system/technique that will not allow the climber to ground- fall in the event that the belayer becomes incapacitated) or combination harness and floor.

Bottom anchors must have a belay device connected with a locking carabiner and be capable of sustaining a load of 10kN/1000kg/2240 lbs.

Mat thicknesses:

  • cross-link foam 5 cm (2”)
  • open-cell foam 5 cm (2”)
  • polyurethane 5 cm (2”)
  • dual-density 5 cm (2”)
  • mats of equivalent compaction rating as determined by manufacturer


  • The wearing of a helmet (or not) must be professionally determined based on the existing hazards in the facility (e.g, toe/hand holds, features) and/or the operating system (e.g, auto-belay).
  • Facilities must provide helmets when their use is not hazardous or when they are required by the school/board, or parents/guardians.
  • When appropriate, helmets that are commercially and specifically manufactured for climbing must be properly fitted (as per manufacturer’s guidelines) and properly worn.


Clothing and footwear appropriate to the activities and environmental conditions must be worn. Tops with drawstrings are not permitted.

No exposed jewelry.

Long hair must be secured. Devices (e.g. hair pins, clips and barrettes) used to tie back long hair must not present a safety concern.


Determine that all facilities are safe for use. Students must be encouraged to report facility problems to the teacher.

The climbing wall must be appropriate for ability levels, age and size of students.

All providers must follow the Ontario Building Code Act, and all applicable By-Laws and Regulations.

All climbing equipment must be installed by a qualified professional (e.g., instructor/provider).

The initial installation of climbing equipment must be inspected by qualified personnel upon completion of the installation and at least once a year thereafter by qualified climbing inspection personnel.

This inspection must be documented with a written report. Necessary changes noted in the report must be addressed.

When running takes place off school site for a warm up:

  • Teachers must do a safety check ‘walk through’ in order to identify potential problems prior to initial use of route or course.
  • Teachers must outline to the students the route or course (e.g., notice of areas to approach with caution) before the start of the run.
  • Teachers must determine that students are not crossing busy intersections unless directly supervised.

Special Rules/Instructions

Be aware of students whose medical condition (e.g., asthma, anaphylaxis, casts, previous concussion, orthopaedic device) may affect participation. (Consult Fundamentals of Safety)

Completed medical forms for each participating student must be accessible.

Prior to the first lesson, teachers must inform climbing instructors of students who have special needs.

Students must not participate in the activity until they receive information on concussion prevention specific to the activity, inherent risks of the activity (e.g. outline possible risks and ways to minimize the risks), and procedures and rules for safe play. Students must receive instruction on the importance of reporting symptoms related to a suspected concussion.

Refer to the school board’s transportation procedures related to communicating with parents/guardians the location of an off-site activity and the means of transportation used as well as to the need for obtaining parent/guardian permission.

Risks involved with each activity and how to lower the risk of an injury from occurring must be communicated to students.

Activity and course elements that are introduced must be based on skills that are taught and appropriate for the age, ability level, language and and experience of the students.

Previous training, fitness level and the length of time and intensity of physical activity must be taken into consideration.

Activities must be based on skills that are taught.

Skills must be taught in proper progression.

A proper warm-up and cool-down must be included.

Students must be allowed to select a challenge at their comfort level, including the choice to not participate. Teachers, instructors and supervisors must be aware of the possibility of peer pressure and make sure no student is coerced into participating.

When students are belaying, the following elements must be addressed in an introductory lesson prior to top rope climbing:

  • the introductory lesson be identified as top-rope specific
  • the introductory lesson must be identified as specific to the belay device being used
  • the introductory lesson must include instruction on and repeat practice of:
    • correct use of harness
    • correct use of knots and tie-in points
    • concept of top-roping
    • correct use of belay device
    • general belaying principles
    • lowering procedures
    • communication and the climber/belayer contract

Adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) must be accessible for students before, during and after physical activity to prevent dehydration.

Fall Protection Operating Systems

Programs may be offered utilizing the following fall protection operating systems:

Climb Only: in such cases, only the instructor belays students.

Full Belay: in such cases, students belay other students using a top rope belay.

Participatory/Team Belay: in such cases, students participate in a belay team with an instructor belaying other students using a top rope style belay.

Auto Belay: mechanical fall protection system where student is connected to a self-retracting lanyard that controls their descent.

The following applies to ALL fall protection operating systems:

  • Programs are required to follow the ratios related to the grade level and the fall protection operating systems as indicated in the Supervision Section.
  • A qualified instructor must check the harness and connection to the fall protection operating system for any student prior to him/her leaving the ground.
  • The fall protection operating system utilized must be one that was installed and recommended by a qualified Challenge Course Professional.
  • The climber-to-belayer weight ratio must be taken into consideration when determining the number of buddy belayers necessary in any non-ground anchored system. In most conventional top-roped belay systems, an approximate climber-to-belayer weight ratio is 1:1.
  • A body belay is not to be used.
  • A belay system/technique that will not allow the climber to ground-fall in the event that the belayer becomes incapacitated, must be used by student belayers.
  • Ground/floor anchors must be backed up by a harness attachment unless they have been specifically installed for climbing and conform to recognized standards (consult the Equipment section).
  • Lead climbing by students must not be done.

For Climb Only Programs

Rules must clearly be explained to students prior to climbing by a qualified instructor.

Unless supervised by an instructor, students are not permitted to:

  • belay
  • apply harnesses to themselves or others
  • tie knots for themselves or others
  • connect to an auto belay system themselves prior to receiving instruction

Belaying, applying harnesses and tying knots must be done by a qualified instructor.

Environmental Considerations

When environmental conditions may pose a risk to student safety (e.g. thunderstorms [lightning] or student(s) with asthma, triggered by air quality), teachers must take into consideration their school board/school’s protocols and procedures related to:

  • environmental conditions (consult Appendices F-1 to F-6: Lightning Protocol, Sample Air Quality Index, Sample Temperature, Tornado, Ultra Violet Index, and Wind Velocity Preparedness Guides]); and
  • insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks [consult the school/school board’s protocols and/or regional Public Health Department’s website]).

Students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to environmental conditions and be made aware of ways to protect themselves (e.g. sun burn, heat stroke).

At all times the school board’s weather and insect procedures are the minimum standards. In situations where a higher standard of care is presented (e.g., outside activity providers, facility/program coordinators), the higher standard of care must be followed.


On site supervision by both a teacher and qualified instructor(s) who must be present for all aspects of the program.

Students must be informed that the use of equipment and the gymnasium are prohibited without supervision. In addition to verbal communication, the doors must be locked or signs must be posted indicating that students are not allowed to use the gym unless appropriately supervised.

Supervision Ratios Applicable to All Installations

  • Climb only: 1 instructor per 1 active line.
  • Full Belay: 1 instructor per 3 active lines. Where student is learning and doing all of the belay steps.
  • Participatory Belay: 1 instructor per 4 active lines.

Where student may participate in part of the belay process if:

  • a locking-assisted braking device is used
  • constant visual supervision occurs
  • a qualified instructor lowers the climber

Intramural Wall Climbing Clubs Ratios

For intramural clubs (e.g., wall climbing clubs) that go to commercial sites, all above ratios apply for the first 3 visits of instructional time (minimum 6 hours) that take place in a reasonable time frame. After 3 separate visits (total time must be minimum 6 hrs):

  • an instructor provides a belay check of each student
  • there must be on-site supervision of 1 teacher per 16 students.

Qualifications Applicable to All Installations

Instructors must be trained in, understand, demonstrate and adhere to a directly relevant skill set for Climbing Walls.

A relevant skill set is a described set of skills developed by recognized climbing professionals.

All instructors must be at least 18 years of age or older to teach the introductory lesson and/or be an instructor.

Qualifications Applicable to Permanent School Sites

Instructors for permanent school sites must hold a current certificate (within the last 3 years), demonstrating successful completion of a training workshop that directly addresses the climbing activities they are teaching.

Individuals who have been trained and can demonstrate the required instructor skills and who are 16 years of age or older can assist with instruction but must be directly supervised by a qualified teacher instructor.

Qualifications Applicable to Portable and Permanent Commercial Installations

Individuals who have been trained and can demonstrate the required instructor skills and who are 16 years of age or older can assist with instruction but must be directly supervised by a qualified instructor.

First Aid

On school site: Follow the school's first aid emergency response (consult Appendix E - Sample First Plan and Sample First Aid Emergency Response) and the school board’s concussion protocol (consult the Concussion section). An emergency action plan and response to deal with evacuations and lock downs must be followed and communicated to students.

Off school site: At least one instructor or an individual responsible for providing first aid must have current First Aid qualifications equivalent to or exceeding St. John Ambulance Emergency First Aid with CPR Level C + AED.

Also see Fundamentals of Safety section to view complete safety requirements.