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Ropes Courses

Version control: Original 1999 / Updated 2003 / Updated 2015



You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity (PDF 466KB) to understand your overall compliance responsibilities.

Challenge ropes courses provide opportunities for individual and group physical challenges that require a combination of teamwork skills, group support and individual commitment.

Challenge ropes courses are constructed of cable or rope using stable trees, or free standing poles. Ropes courses are either "Low or High" and are varied in their design, use and purpose.

High ropes courses have a number of elements which a participant traverses whilst on either an individual or partner belay safety system. High ropes courses are generally constructed two or more metres off the ground and always have a safety belay system in place.

Low ropes courses are constructed with a footline no higher than one (1) metre off the ground. There is no requirement for a belay system. Spotting by staff or students trained in spotting may be required, depending on the age of the participant and the selected course.

Parents or caregivers must be informed of full details of the location, supervision to be provided and activities to be undertaken when seeking their written permission.

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Instructor Qualifications and Experience

Essential experience and training required of the instructor includes:

  • Accreditation in accordance with industry standards.
  • Recent experience on the challenge ropes course to be used, including appropriate experience with the particular elements within the ropes course.
  • Training in group management procedures appropriate to the safe conduct of the activity.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of current training in rescues from emergency situations including individual and partner belay systems and self-rescue.
  • Recognised current first aid certificate.
  • Working knowledge of the selection, use, maintenance, storage of course equipment.

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A minimum of two adult supervisors, one of whom is a teacher, must be present at all times. The teacher must have current training in emergency care.

As a guide to principals and teachers in charge, the minimum activity staff to student ratio for challenge ropes courses which have a low level of difficulty is 1:12. For ropes courses which have higher levels of difficulty, additional supervision will need to be provided. The minimum instructor to student ratio for high ropes courses is 1:8.

Increased supervision will need to be provided where the design and position of the course dictates or where difficult elements are included on the course.

Prior to supervising rope course activities, staff must be given similar training to that provided for students.

In establishing supervision for students away from the challenge ropes courses, and not directly involved with the course in any way, the teacher-in-charge should ensure that the area underneath the course is free of bystanders.

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Students must wear comfortable clothing suitable for the activity. For full visibility of the harness and associated hardware, upper garments are to be tucked under the harness waist belt. Long trousers/tracksuits should be considered as this type of clothing will reduce possible skin burns and abrasions, should the participant slip or fall. Sport shoes or lightweight boots are acceptable.

All jewellery likely to cause injury must be removed. If ring removal is not possible, the ring must be covered with tape.

Students are to be instructed to use adequate sun protection, e.g. an SPF50+, broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen reapplied regularly and a hat.

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All equipment must be specifically designed for use in ropes course activities or rock climbing. It must be fully inspected prior to, and immediately after use. Safety equipment such as belay ropes and harnesses must be in good condition, and meet UIAA or Standards Australia specifications.

UIAA or Standards Australia approved helmets must be worn by students on high challenge ropes courses. On low courses, students are protected by spotters, however the dynamics of the group and participation in particular elements, may require the use of helmets.

A well-equipped medical kit must be readily available. Rescue equipment such as rope slings, spare karabiners and an access ladder must also be readily available.

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Facility operators should carry out regular formal maintenance inspections which are fully documented and endorsed by an independent industry expert. Operators must be able to provide written evidence that a recent maintenance check has been conducted. Prior to each course activity, the instructor should carry out a visual inspection of the course to ensure that cables, ropes, wood, connectors and anchor points are in sound operating condition.

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Immediately prior to undertaking a ropes course, students must be given clear instructions to ensure that they know what is required and understand the safety aspects.

Activities must be carefully chosen to suit the age and abilities of the group, and where necessary, individual students. Students must be progressively introduced to and taught the skills needed for safe participation.

This training will include:

  • Belaying on high ropes and spotting on low ropes.
  • Working together as a small team.
  • Appropriate communication.
  • Ascent and descent from the high ropes course.
  • Procedural instructions for the specific ropes course.
  • Use of safety equipment.

The psychological preparation of students is as important as the physical preparation, especially for students who are anxious about the activity. Under no circumstances should students be pressured by staff or peers to participate beyond their readiness.

A transition belay system on each platform between high elements is essential for the safety of participants who are between element safety belays.

Before using the ropes course where safety harnesses are to be used (high ropes), students must be trained and given carefully monitored practice on how to clip on and lock karabiners to safety harnesses and how to belay. Staff must physically check the harness and attachments of each participant prior to participation.

The number of students permitted to perform on each element at any one time must be clearly communicated.

Challenge ropes courses must not be used in wet conditions, excessive winds, lightning and electrical storms or extremely hot conditions.

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