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Oh Canada: My Experience at the First CWA Meeting in Calgary

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019
Chris Stevenson Speaking at CWA Meetings Calgary

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

I have always believed that the most successful people in any industry are the ones that focus on consistent professional development. In fact, “grow through constant learning” is one of my company’s core values.

 

I learn in many different ways. I read daily. I listen to podcasts while I’m driving or working out. I follow thought leaders on social media. I use apps like Blinkist and Ted Talks. I subscribe to relevant blogs and newsletters. All of these diverse methods of self-improvement allow me to learn different things, in different ways, at different times.

 

While all of these modalities are fantastic, I have found that live events are the most effective method of learning. Live events provide a level of energy and engagement that cannot be found anywhere else. They allow you to build relationships with other industry professionals. You simply can’t beat a well-executed live event.

 

I have been a part of the climbing industry for several years now, including workshops and keynotes at the annual CWA Summit for the last three years. If you haven’t attended this event, make it a priority. I present at events all over the world and the Summit is truly one of my favorites.

 

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of presenting at the CWA’s first-ever regional event in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This event was special. There were three things that stood out; the intimate workshop, the brewery (yes, the brewery) and the keynote with a roundtable.

 

Intimate & Focused Workshop

On the first day of the event, I ran a full-day workshop at the Calgary Climbing Centre Rocky Mountain, which is an absolutely beautiful state-of-the-art facility. When I arrived at the gym for the workshop, the energy was off-the-charts. I mean, just feast your eyes for a moment on this striking outdoor wall!

 

Gloves for Hand Protection

Photo courtesy of Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, Architect Renante Solivar

 

The workshop was one of the best I have ever facilitated; and it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the smaller setting and focused group of attendees. In this context, everyone participated, which created a platform for diverse perspectives and in-depth discussions.

 

I know that I have some good things to teach, but the amount of sharing and discussion that occurred was just as valuable, if not more. There were healthy debates and discussions. The information-sharing was uniquely fantastic. I was the facilitator and I learned a ton. It was amazing.

 

CWA Meetings Management and Operations Track

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Time to Unwind at the Brewery

Another thing that made this event exceptional was, well, beer. Yes, you read that correctly, beer.

 

After the full day of workshops, there was a reception at a brewery called Last Best Brewing & Distilling. The reception set the perfect scene for everyone to unwind after a long day of learning.

 

Guests were able to get to know each other better and build new relationships. Discussion and information sharing continued. People exchanged cards and connected on social media. They laughed and had a good time. The food was delicious, and the beer was refreshing and tasty.

 

I often joke that some of the best parts of events happen afterwards at the hotel bar. This time, it wasn’t a hotel bar, it was a brewery and it was a really strong part of the event. A good social experience at an event is crucial. The CWA team nailed it.

 

Informative Conference Sessions & Roundtables

The next morning, I had the honor of presenting the opening keynote to kick off the conference day. The gist of the keynote was about being the highest performer you can be while being a great team player at the same time.

 

Chris Stevenson CWA Meetings Keynote

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

The keynote seemed to go over well, and I think the attendees learned a lot. The kicker, however, was the roundtable discussion afterwards.

 

Whenever I present a keynote, my goal is to accomplish two things: to give very tangible information that people can use, and for them to actually take action. Let’s face it, all of the knowledge in the world is useless if you don’t take action on it.

 

The roundtable afterwards allowed me to drive those two points home. We took the five key teaching points in the keynote and spent 15 minutes discussing each of them in-depth. This gave everyone a chance to dig in deeper, share their thoughts, and teach each other.

 

I love roundtables. They are so beneficial, and I get to take a back seat and let the audience do the talking. 😜

 

The keynote, followed by a roundtable, was an absolute homerun. Wait, this was in Canada. The keynote followed by a roundtable was a hat trick.

 

A Great Event with a Healthy Dose of My Cheesy Canadian Jokes

Intimacy. Interaction. Information sharing. Learning. Networking. Fun. This event had it all. It was truly something special. If I had to grade the event, I would have to give it an… EH!

 

CWA Meetings Roundtable Discussion

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

I started this post by talking about the importance of learning. Learning keeps us relevant. It motivates us. It makes us better at our craft.

 

I encourage you to find ways to do diverse methods of constant learning. Get a new book. Download a podcast. Subscribe to a blog. Plan to attend live events like the CWA Summit and/or CWA Meetings like the one in Calgary. Schedule time for learning. Put it in your calendar. What gets scheduled gets accomplished.

 

When it comes to live events, lock it in your calendar. Set aside funds in your budget. Plan to attend at least one or two a year. While all methods are good and should be done, you just can’t beat the all of the amazing benefits of live events.

 

I’m very excited to head to Hoboken in a few days for the second CWA Meeting. If you’re in the New York/New Jersey area, I hope to see you there! Or join us next month in San Francisco. I have no doubt they're both going to be great events.

 

LEARN MORE

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  CWA Meetings  employee engagement  leadership  management  operations  programming  risk management  staff retention  staff training  standards 

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Effective Workplace Training

Posted By Aaron Gibson, Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Workplace Training

Of all the methods of managing risk that climbing facilities employ, a robust training program is one of the most effective means of reducing accident rates for visitors and workers alike.

 

Studies have consistently shown that the likelihood of an accident is higher in the first month of employment and decreases with time. One study in particular that examined workers’ compensation claims [1] showed that workers on the job were four times more likely to have an accident in the first month compared to workers that had been employed for a year.

 

Therefore, timeliness in training new employees or employees that have been assigned new duties is critical to ensuring their safety.

 

Training, with all its methodologies, approaches, analysis of retention, measures of effectiveness, etc. is a wide-ranging, voluminous topic. This article touches on a few of these areas but focuses primarily on safety and health program training and presents some guidelines for improving your local program.

 

At the end of this article are some links to training resources and articles that may be helpful in evaluating and improving your current program.

 

Types of Training

The purpose of training, by definition, is to impart a particular skill or type of behavior such that it improves performance. Training is intended to prepare a person for a job, a task, or a specific set of circumstances.

 

There are multiple approaches and methods of delivering training: web-based, audio-video, operational, experiential, lecture, coaching, and in-service or on-the-job training are a few forms. A sound approach is to ensure the training translates directly to the workplace.

 

While there are web-based modules available that “check the box” for a training requirement, these are not necessarily the most effective means for ensuring an employee is competent in a particular area. To achieve a level of competency, one should customize the learning to their facility and circumstances.

 

Safety and Employee Orientation Training

Workplace safety training is a requirement to protect workers from injuries and illnesses. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.9 Subpart A [2], states that, “The employer must train each affected employee in the manner required by the standard…” based on the type of work performed, an analysis of workplace hazards, and a worker’s level of responsibility.

 

The type of safety training required is based on the type of work performed and varies with departments. Some specific programs to consider include the following:

  • Fall Protection, Including Slips, Trips, and Falls
  • Emergency Action Planning and Fire Prevention Plans
  • Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle-Mounted Work Platforms (for those facilities that use this equipment)
  • Occupational Noise Exposure (Hearing Protection)
  • Electrical Safety
  • Confined Space Entry (for controlled access areas behind or inside climbing walls)
  • First Aid, CPR, and AED
  • General Housekeeping and Storage

 

Training for Specialized Work

Specialized work includes job tasks that are unique in nature and require particular skill sets, techniques, and equipment in order to accomplish the work.

 

Routesetting is an example of specialized training. There are key elements, based on the terrain (i.e. bouldering, top-roping, lead terrain), the tools (ex: impact drills), and the equipment (ex: aerial lifts and ladders).

 

Beyond the technical and creative aspects of creating functional and worthwhile routes, safety is paramount for routesetters. It’s important to identify those requiring specialized training and only allow those who have received training and demonstrated a sufficient level of competency as authorized to perform such work.

 

In other words, if a staff member has not received formal training on work-at-height and routesetting they should not be performing that work unsupervised.

 

The Evaluation Phase

Hosting a brief “tailgate meeting” safety session about a topic and assuming everyone is trained is not sufficient to ensure competency. Incorporate an evaluation phase into training wherein employees are challenged on their understanding and performance and a measure of retention can be determined.

 

Evaluations can differ in form and function based on the type of training but some examples include quizzes, peer assessments, and skill challenges followed by constructive feedback.

 

Written Programs

A written training program is the roadmap that drives your training program. A well-conceived written training program is not burdensome – it sets expectations, identifies requirements, and acts to empower employees and management alike.

 

It is used as a policy document that shows what your training standards are, it helps to ensure everyone is receiving an appropriate and consistent level of training, and it provides a reference from which to work.

 

At a minimum, an annual review of your training program should be performed to check on changes to facilities, equipment, tools, and work practices – your training program should be updated accordingly and subsequently, refresher training should be performed and documented.

 

Training Development

When workers have a voice in the workplace and input about how training is developed, training programs are more effective. It is often the employees that come to know their tasks and working conditions the best and are acutely aware of the hazards.

 

Your staff can point out the strengths and weaknesses in a program. Incorporate employee input into the development and delivery of training.

 

Retraining and Refresher Training

According to OSHA, retraining is required when there is a change in work practices, tools, or procedures. For some programs, refresher training is required.

 

However, even if refresher training is not required, it is a good habit to ensure employees have the necessary level of competency.

 

Continuing education opportunities are a great means of ensuring that knowledge is being disseminated through the team, that problem areas are being addressed, and that there are not gaps in work practices. Likewise, refresher trainings, skill assessments, and certifications should be documented.

 

Training Records

You have probably heard the saying, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.” The same goes for documenting training.

 

Typically, if a worker is injured and there is an investigation or claim one of the first questions is: “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?” If the answer is “yes,” but you do not have the documentation, then there is no record of when or if the training actually occurred.

 

OSHA recommends that employers maintain training records for a period of five years, but requirements may vary based on state laws and insurance. The best practice is to maintain a record of all training and certifications for each employee.

 

Setting up a training record system can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Not sure where to start? Download our sample training tracker as an example resource.

 

In conclusion, an effective training program is essential to maintain worker safety, accomplish work effectively, and meet State and Federal regulations, and insurance requirements. Involve your employees, implement a robust program, and don’t leave the program on the shelf - review it, refine it, and adjust it as necessary.

 

References:

[1] Trial by fire: a multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries
[2] Training Requirements in OSHA Standards

 

Additional Articles:

- Exceed Safety Training to Increase Operational Learning and Safety at Work
- Training Effectiveness - A Quality By Design Approach

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson is a climber of over 27 years and an EOSH Professional specializing in fall protection, health, and safety. He holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Epidemiology & Toxicology and has over fifteen years of experience in workplace and environmental health and safety serving local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Aaron has applied his experience to the climbing industry as a safety industry consultant/expert, as well as a gym owner and manager, a USA Climbing coach, USA Climbing certified routesetter, CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  certifications  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  management  operations  OSHA  risk management  routesetting management  staff training  standards  work-at-height 

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CWA Meetings: Calgary Recap

Posted By Emily Moore, Monday, August 19, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019
CWA Meetings Calgary Attendees

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

Last week, the Climbing Wall Association team launched the first-ever CWA Meetings event in partnership with Calgary Climbing Centre!

 

Over the summer, we have heard from many of you who have questions about this brand-new program: what are CWA Meetings all about, who are these events intended for, and where are you headed next?

 

Let’s take a deeper look into CWA Meetings through the lens of our first event in Calgary.

 

Specialized Job Training

CWA Meetings are job training events by design. A ticket to a CWA Meetings event gives you access to:

  • One full day of workshops, for hands-on skills training
  • One full conference day, for discussion and lecture-based training

When you sign up for the event, you will select a content track that best aligns with your role in a climbing gym. This designation will determine the workshops, roundtables, and lectures you participate in for the duration of the event.

 

CWA Meetings content tracks include:

  • Routesetter, designed for routesetting staff, or head routesetters
  • Management/Operations Staff, designed for front desk managers, gym managers, and gym frontline staff
  • Adult/Youth Instruction, designed for program coordinators, trainers, and commercial coaching staff (competition coaching is not addressed)

 

Routesetters Workshop

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Community Building

Since CWA Meetings are regional events, the program calls in attendees from gyms in the surrounding area to connect with and learn from each other. Building these relationships is an opportunity to strengthen our industry, broaden professional networks, and keep dialogue open among different climbing facilities.

 

Aside from the conference curriculum, CWA Meetings offers a Member Meetup, which invites gym staff from the region (not just attendees) to socialize and make new connections.

 

Management Roundtable

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

How Do CWA Meetings Differ from the CWA Summit?

CWA Meetings offer a unique opportunity to spend several days collaborating with folks in similar job functions. Unlike the CWA Summit, which offers a broad set of conference topics and a full-blown trade show, CWA Meetings are highly focused.

 

Upon registration for a Meeting, you select a track and then remain with that track from start-to-finish. The three tracks contain their own workshops, lectures, and roundtables in a highly engaged learning environment. The CWA selected top workshop facilitators and presenters who can offer a meaningful experience and help hone important skills for each attendee.

 

Additionally, the curriculum goals of CWA Meetings are largely suited towards early and mid-career professionals. While upper-level management are best-served by the Summit, CWA Meetings are built for growth-oriented professionals who are seeking to increase their professional responsibilities through training, discussion, and certification.

 

Management Roundtable

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Tell Me About CWA Meetings in Calgary!

Not only was this the first CWA Meetings event, this was the first CWA event in Canada. Let’s take a quick look at the event by the numbers:

  • 1 outstanding host facility (Calgary Climbing Centre)
  • 13 facilities in attendance across 3 Canadian provinces and 2 U.S. states
  • 4 workshops
  • 1 keynote
  • 1 film
  • 3 breakout presentations (1 per track)
  • 6 roundtables (2 per track)
  • 2 product presentations

Here’s a look at the event from our attendees’ viewpoint:

 

“CWA Meetings Calgary was a terrific event. I participated in the Youth & Adult Instruction track, and the information was fresh, well presented, informative and extremely applicable. CWI Provider course was also very well run and is such a great certification to have. Facilities, logistics and communication were also very good. Well worth the trip from Chicago!”

- Dave Hudson, Co-owner and Program Coordinator, First Ascent Climbing and Fitness

 

“I found the whole event to be great opportunity to meet other setters and see where standards are at the moment. We have a lot of work ahead. But this event created that energy to keep pushing leaning and standards in the right direction.”

- Juan Henriquez, Head Setter, Calgary Climbing Centre Hanger

 

“CWA events are a necessity for newer gyms. It allows you to get all of your staff up to speed with the industry in a very short amount of time. Send them to it.”

- Terry Paholek, BLOCS

 

Get Involved

The strength of CWA Meetings is found in a diverse representation of facilities and attendees who can contribute a variety of ideas and experience to the event. Don’t miss out on taking part in year one of CWA Meetings!

 

Check out our CWA Meetings Hoboken and CWA Meetings San Francisco events coming up:

  • Hoboken: September 16-20
  • San Francisco: October 21-25

Register yourself or your staff today for CWA Meetings! If you have questions, you can email Emily Moore at emily@climbingwallindustry.org.

 

REGISTER

 

Tags:  certifications  coaching  customer experience  customer service  CWA Meetings  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  management  member retention  operations  programming  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  staff training  standards  work-at-height  youth training 

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Focus on Workplace Safety – Eye Protection for Workers in Climbing Facilities

Posted By Aaron Gibson, Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Eye Protection

Despite how the muscles in your forearms might feel while climbing, the muscles that control our eyes are the most active in the human body. Likewise, our eyes, part of our nervous system, are one of our most complex organs, second only to the brain. Even though only 1/6 of our eye is exposed to the outside, and our eyelids, brows, and lashes help to protect our eyes, they are still highly vulnerable to injury. Our eyes are susceptible to UV light, harmful substances, and trauma.

 

Workplace injuries are the leading cause of eye trauma, vision loss, disability, and blindness. In 2017 alone there were over 23,000 non-fatal workplace eye injuries in the US. Thankfully, 90% of eye injuries are preventable with the proper safety eyewear.

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in CFR 1910.133 requires that, “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.”

 

Of all the tasks in a climbing facility, routesetting is the most likely, but perhaps not the only, job where eye protection is needed. These days, most professional routesetters use impact drills, which increase the exposure to flying debris hazards.

 

Not all safety glasses are intended for the same purpose, so make sure to select equipment compatible with the work you are doing. OSHA requires that safety glasses be specially rated and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). All safety glasses and goggles should be rated ANSI Z87.1 for eye protection, with the Z87 mark on the frames or lenses. Using glasses that are not safety-rated may increase your exposure to a hazard because standard eyeglasses and sunglasses can shatter.

 

Cody Grodzki, Director of Routesetting for High Point Climbing and Fitness in Tennessee and Alabama, said they have recently employed the use of face shields, like the Petzl Vizen, during routesetting activities while on ropes and ladders. A face-shield provides wrap-around protection from flying debris and particles. The Vizen is compatible with the helmets they wear, provides full-face protection, and meets the ANSI Z87.1 standard.

 

Eye injuries can result in vision loss, so if an eye injury occurs it is important to recognize it and respond appropriately. First, do not attempt to treat a serious eye injury yourself – seek medical attention. If a person has obvious pain, trouble seeing, a cut or torn eyelid, blood in the eye, or something that is not easily removed, it is important to seek medical attention. Attempting to remove something that is embedded in the eye can create more damage.

 

Some facilities may offer portable eyewash stations with rinse bottles. These can be helpful for minor first-aid response, but keep in mind the limitations of an eyewash bottle. Eyewash stations should be easily reachable with clear access. From a risk management program perspective, the rinse solution in eyewash bottles has an expiration date and needs to be inspected and maintained.

 

As with all work, remember to take the necessary precautions before beginning and make sure you understand the hazards in the tasks you are performing. If possible, try to eliminate the hazard first. Ensure that tool guards and other “engineering controls” are in place. Make sure your eyewear is comfortable and fits. Finally, don’t overlook eye protection – use it.

 

References

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The Vision Council
National Eye Institute

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson works as an EOSH Professional and has over fifteen years of experience in workplace and environmental safety and health. He’s worked with local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Since 2007, Aaron has applied his experience to the climbing gym industry as a gym owner/operator, coach, routesetter, instructor, and industry consultant/expert. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  job hazard analysis  operations  OSHA  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  standards 

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Streamlining Development in Indoor Climbing Gyms

Posted By Nicole Brandt, Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Indoor Climbing Gym Development

Developing is “growing or becoming more mature, advanced or elaborate,” according to Google dictionary. You, your company, and the climbing industry as a whole are all developing all the time, but are you getting the most out of your development process? This article will introduce a set of tools you can use to ensure your development plans are strategic, efficient, and streamlined.

 

In the well-known Tuckman model of group development there are four stages of development: forming, storming, norming and performing. Indoor climbing as an industry is currently in the productive, yet chaotic, “storming” phase of development, which means our industry lacks consistent access to long-term cumulative, generally-accepted knowledge and best practices. We are all still pushing boundaries and creating these resources. In the rapidly-evolving, entrepreneurial indoor climbing niche, “industry standard” is a moving target. As a business you are trying to meet or exceed that standard while learning what is contributing to your success.

 

If the definition and standard of indoor climbing gyms are not clear, the direction of your development might also be unclear. Using the right tools to direct development in operations, programs, or expansion will move us toward the “norming” phase of development, which allows your company more success, a more positive culture or better customer experience.

 

As an example, ponder the variety of answers you might receive to the following:

  • Ask gym owners: Is indoor climbing a part of the outdoor industry or fitness industry?
  • Ask operators: What does risk management include?
  • Ask routesetters and coaches: What are the best resources for climbing terminology or standards?
  • Ask employees: Who is our target customer?
  • Ask every employee: What is your company’s mission?

If you can answer each of these questions clearly for your company, then you have done your homework. If any debate or confusion comes up from these questions, there is still room to develop.

 

What to develop?

Each gym or brand is developing new facility designs and product ideas, testing their viability, building prototypes, deciding on marketing issues such as pricing, packaging, promotion, and positioning. The willingness to self-evaluate and look critically at our organizations can help us reach peak effectiveness in these endeavors.

 

Consider if there is a way in each of the following areas YOU could make the customer’s experience 10% better:

  • Mission and Vision
  • Company Organization, Management, Staffing, HR functions
  • Facility Design & Wall Design
  • Routesetting: Commercial & Competition
  • Operations and Valuation
  • Membership Products, Services, Programming (Adult/ Youth) and Events
  • Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Sales, Pricing, Tracking
  • Expansion Opportunities

Each of you can undoubtedly talk for hours, if not days, about specifics related to at least one of the topics listed above. In order to keep things simple, determine 3-5 priorities to focus on each year. Even better, turn those priorities into Objectives and Key Results to increase accountability within your company.

 

Questions to gut check your priorities include:

  • Is the idea really part of your company’s bigger mission/vision?
  • Does it fill a short-term or long-term goal?
  • Has a customer or staff member said they want this feature or product?

Tools for Developing

Have you ever stared at a blank document and not known where to start? Me too.

 

Starting from scratch after you determine the priorities can be daunting. There are several tools available to help the development process feel more approachable.

 

Piggyback on outside industries. Knowing what business resources are available and which of those can be utilized in climbing gyms helps us not have to develop from scratch. Additionally, utilizing another industry’s bones and structure for a project and then substituting indoor climbing content can help reduce time required on a project. Potential resources include but are not limited to: HR resources and software, fitness industry, data tracking, gymnastics or other sports program structures, project management tools for expansion, case studies from successful businesses, etc.

 

Utilize existing resources within the climbing industry. Industry-specific resources can help streamline development, and new resources are being created rapidly. If someone else has done the work, it benefits you to not create the same material again. Potential resources include but are not limited to: CWA, USA Climbing, IFSC, podcasts, climbing blogs, outdoor climbing organizations, magazines, books, guiding companies, supporting non-profits, fitness industry resources, climbing-specific vendors, research, etc.

 

Celebrate competition and know them well. If you have competition, you know your product is in demand. There is an opportunity to utilize the competition’s idea and retool it, making it “more better” and specific to your brand. Your job is to LISTEN. People will tell you what they want. Take their feedback, even when hard to hear, and find a way to implement.

 

Identify stakeholders. Stakeholder identification is understanding who is responsible for executing the development and who is holding them accountable. To do their best work, those executing the development need to feel supported, empowered, and appreciated.

 

Understand the timeline. Understanding how development fits in with gym happenings, events, ongoing duties, and responsibilities will help minimize stress around each project and keep goals realistic.

 

Communicate! Communicating what is being developed company- and community-wide increases trust, transparency, and satisfaction with customers/staff and helps them to celebrate the success created.

 

It takes time and energy to shift a good idea from infancy to execution, but these tools are a great way to ensure your development goals are achievable and align with your overall business strategy. Continuing to learn our best practices, document our changes and progress, and push the boundaries of indoor climbing will take our sport from adolescent to mature.

 

Nicole Brandt Head ShotAbout the Author

Nicole Brandt runs Cypress Roots Consulting, a consulting company for climbing gyms helping them deep-dive into their company organization, programming, and culture. Nicole earned her degree in Outdoor Recreation with an emphasis in Tourism and has worked as the Program Director of Momentum and as a facilitator and guide across the Southeast and West. Currently based out of Salt Lake City, she spends her free time learning about yoga and herbalism.

 

Tags:  leadership  management  operations  standards 

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One Small Step (or how a close call changed my routesetting life)

Posted By Peter Zeidelhack, Sunday, March 24, 2019
Peter Zeidelhack Routesetting

When I started climbing about 28 years ago, there were no climbing gyms around, so our dad built us our own little steep woody where my love for routesetting and climbing holds was born. Today I’m a routesetting nerd, a gear freak, and a hold-aficionado. I’m passionate about every aspect of routesetting, except maybe cleaning holds… I love the workout and feeling exhausted after a day on the rope. I love watching the members enjoy the routes my team and I set and seeing their happy faces (or the challenged, angry ones). As long as our members are happy, we are happy.

 

I also like to teach routesetting, which I’ve been doing for almost 8 years now. As our industry is growing, this is becoming progressively more important. More gyms mean more routes and boulders have to be set more often, and people need to know the fundamentals on all aspects of routesetting in order to be able to create a great experience for the customers. We want them to come back, don’t we?

 

As for Germany, it’s only in the last 15 years that the growth in climbing gyms really started picking up pace, and through that growth routesetting has become more and more important. My first contact with routesetting was at the 1991 World Cup in Nürnberg where a certain Wolfgang Güllich was setting the routes together with Kurt Albert and others. When these guys were routesetting from ropes back then, what did it look like? Maybe a bit like this:

 

Vintage Routesetting Technique

 

Some of us might have used techniques similar to this at a certain stage or actually still do.

 

When I started routesetting, everyone was using standard sport climbing practices. We thought, “Yeah man, climbing gym, cool, all good! No sharp edges, no cutting tools! We climb all the time with one rope, why would we need more than one rope for routesetting? We’re comfortable with height as climbers, no problem!” We felt invincible. We were teaching routesetters this way, we were routesetting this way ourselves, and we probably would still be routesetting this way if not for the wake-up call we got one day. A rope almost ruptured on a coworker of mine due to a sharp edge on the wall and luckily, we didn’t have to learn the hard way:

 

 

“Once in a lifetime” you say? Nope, this was not a singular event when it comes to damaged ropes. My team started to notice this happening with some regularity, and we determined that the hazards of a cut rope weren’t preventable. So, what do we do? Similarly to the CWA’s Work-at-Height standard, we apply techniques that are already used in other fields. We switched to a redundant way of routesetting and began teaching it this way from then on. Not only in Germany but also in other European Countries like the UK, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, and France. The community is rethinking safety standards for the industry on a larger scale.

 

Routesetting has evolved along with the sport of climbing, the climbing community, as well as overall industry growth. You all know this! A climbing film winning an Academy Award, combined sport climbing being part of the Olympic family next year, and the level of awareness of climbing and the gym industry is growing faster than ever. We have to meet this awareness with a certain level of professionalism.

 

What does this mean for routesetting? We have to be aware of what we are doing and the bottom line for this is: we are not climbing when we are routesetting, we are working, and we have to act accordingly! I will not dig into the hazard analysis and the legalities – this has been done here before.

 

My point is the necessary shift in our mindset as routesetters – be it the Operations Manager, the Head Routesetter, or the routesetters on the team. It doesn’t take much to embrace this way of thinking and if you value your life, this is the best way. I am not only talking cut ropes but also human error, injuries, and medical issues. Do we really want to wait for an even bigger accident to finally see the obvious?*

 

I‘m on a mission. And my mission is to make the routesetting profession safer on a global scale. With the industry getting bigger, more gyms popping up everywhere, and more demand for awesome routes, new routesetters need to know what they are doing. We want to give them the tools to pursue a professional curriculum and keep customers from getting hurt.

 

In order for our industry to keep growing, we need to reduce risk in routesetting. What I personally want most is to have routesetting stay as much fun as it is right now, and that involves safety: not third, not second, FIRST! The foundation of routesetting is all about safety. Creating movement and climbing come after that.

 

*Editor’s note: As this post was being prepared, an accident occurred in Germany resulting in the death of a climbing wall worker named Gerhard Haug. Mr. Haug was conducting an inspection on the wall and fell from 16 meters (over 50 feet). It is not clear what kind of rope system was in use, but it was not redundant. There was apparently no rope attached to his harness. We will share further information if it becomes available.

 


From Climber to Worker: A Panel Discussion on Work-at-Height

Join Peter Zeidelhack and other routesetting leaders for a panel discussion of the Work-at-Height standard and the future of the routesetting profession during the 2019 CWA Summit conference. Register here.


 

Peter Zeidelhack Head ShotAbout the Author

Peter Zeidelhack has been a routesetter for 16 years, specializing in commercial routesetting and routesetting safety. He is Head of Routesetting Training for DAV (German Alpine Club), manager of two gyms, and responsible for routesetting in 4 gyms with a total climbing surface of 16.000 square meters.

 

Tags:  certifications  operations  OSHA  PPE  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  staff training  standards  work-at-height 

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The Three Most Important Pieces of Personal Protective Equipment for Climbing Wall Workers

Posted By Aaron Gibson, MS, Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Personal Protective Equipment

Climbing wall workers are confronted with a number of potential hazards to be protected against. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the term given to wearable devices and clothing used in the workplace to protect workers from various hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that PPE “shall be provided, used, and maintained,” whenever necessary by risk of injury and hazard exposure to workers [1]. Each job task should be assessed for potential hazards (see my previous article about JHAs) but most climbing wall workplaces can benefit from three fundamental forms of PPE: eye protection, hearing protection, and hand protection.

 

Safety Glasses and Safety Goggles

Eye Protection

Eye protection is perhaps the most important protection device in your PPE toolbox because our eyes are delicate and vulnerable to a variety of hazards. OSHA requires that “the employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles…” [2]. Most notable in the climbing wall workplace are physical impacts such as projectile materials, particulate matter, and liquid chemicals. An approved pair of safety glasses with side shields can protect against metal shards, plastic particles from holds, and wood dust, such as when using an impact drill during routesetting. Safety goggles provide all-around protection and should be used for splash hazards often found during cleaning operations with liquid chemicals.

 

Earplugs and Earmuffs

Hearing Protection

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur as a result of both a one-time excessive noise level and from long-term exposures to excessive noise. While single intense “impulse” noises are possible in the climbing gym environment, more likely are chronic, long-term exposures to elevated noise levels (above 85 decibels) over time. The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. The use of disposable earplugs or earmuffs provides the necessary protection. Depending on the type of device used, these effectively reduce the noise levels by 15-35+ decibels, saving a worker’s hearing. Some workers may use music headphones or ear-buds in lieu of earplugs (or earmuffs) and while these may provide some noise reduction they are typically not designed to protect in the same manner as hearing protection. In fact, in some cases, listening to loud music while also performing work in a noisy environment may even increase your risk of hearing loss, so be aware of what type of hearing protection you choose.

 

Gloves for Hand Protection

Hand Protection

As climbing wall workers, protecting your hands is important to your ability to both work and climb. Gloves provide the necessary barrier between our hands and what we are handling. Select appropriate gloves for the task you are performing. There are different gloves for different types of tasks weather it is housekeeping chores, hold washing, routesetting, or other manual labor. Routesetters that go without work gloves while stripping a wall are susceptible to cuts and abrasions to their hands from bolts, spinning holds, and repeated contact of handling holds. Workers can benefit from preventing blisters and abrasions by wearing a thin-layer work glove when performing daily cleaning duties.

 

In summary, the use of PPE is an important means of reducing workplace injuries and incidents. While protecting workers’ eyes, ears, and hands is a good place to start, keep in mind that training is necessary for proper work practices. An emphasis on worker participation and the demonstration of a positive safety culture by management is paramount to effectiveness.

 

References and Resources

[1] OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132 – Personal Protective Equipment
[2] OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133 – Eye and Face Protection
[3] OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 – Occupational Noise Exposure
[4] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - National Institutes of Health – Information on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
[5] OSHA 29 CFR 1910.138(a) – Hand Protection

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson works as an EOSH Professional and has over fifteen years of experience in workplace and environmental safety and health. He’s worked with local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Since 2007, Aaron has applied his experience to the climbing gym industry as a gym owner/operator, coach, routesetter, instructor, and industry consultant/expert. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  management  operations  OSHA  PPE  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  staff retention  staff training  standards  work-at-height 

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Beyond Fall Protection: Risk Management for Climbing Wall Workers in the Gym Environment

Posted By Aaron Gibson, MS, Monday, October 22, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018
Worker Safety in Climbing Gyms

Safety in the workplace is important in all working environments, including climbing gyms. The General Duty Clause of the 1970 OSHA Act mandates that employers have a legal responsibility to present a safe working environment [1]. Climbing gyms often focus their risk management policies on fall protection, and rightly so, but are there weaknesses in other areas that present hazards to workers? This article will go beyond fall protection to help you consider other possible workplace hazards associated with a typical climbing gym, and introduce a technique for enhancing your workplace safety program as a whole.

 

The best time to address potential hazards is before they occur. A good starting point is the use of a Job Hazard Analysis or JHA [2]. A JHA is a technique that helps with the identification of hazards and examines the relationship between the worker, a particular task, and potential hazards. The JHA process is commonly applied in industrial work settings to address specific tasks that present hazardous conditions, but the same techniques can be effectively applied in a climbing gym setting.

 

The first step of a JHA is identification. First identify and prioritize tasks in the gym to be analyzed. This can be based on a preliminary review of accident/incident/near miss reports, feedback from staff, or experience with gym tasks. Some front-desk tasks may not be necessary to examine in depth. However, consider that infrequently performed jobs may be the ones that present the greatest hazard to workers. Things like changing air filters, removing a t-nut from behind a wall, accessing an electrical panel, power-washing handholds, even changing a high-bay light, have hazards associated with them.

 

Next, list the individual steps to accomplish the task. Think in terms of sequence of events. Make notes on what is done rather than how it is done. Start each entry with a verb, for example, “Turn on power washer.” This part of the process is often done through observation and documenting of the task while it is being performed.

 

As you progress, identify potential hazards. You are looking at possible areas of harm to the worker: risks to life, limb, eyesight, hearing, etc. Address questions like: What can go wrong? What are the consequences? How likely is it that the hazard will occur? What are other contributing factors?

 

List preventive measures and consider ways to eliminate or reduce the hazards. Is there a smarter way to do the job? Consider changes to equipment, changes in tools, changes to work processes, changes to access methods for work-at-height, or changes to the personnel doing the job. Often there will be a combination of controls used. If engineering controls and administrative controls are not enough to address the hazard, use personal protective equipment (PPE) (ex: hearing protection, eye protection, gloves, etc.).

 

The preventive step requires a trade-off of sorts, usually based on larger factors like time and money. While elimination of a hazard is the most effective solution, it can also be the most expensive, and often times impractical. Administrative controls and PPE tend to be more cost effective but require more management, training, and continuous monitoring. Maintaining accident, injury, illness and near-miss reports is an important part of continuous monitoring to ensure your program is effective.

 

The final steps include correcting hazardous conditions, communicating with staff about the findings, and re-training staff if necessary. A periodic review of your JHAs is necessary as tasks or equipment can change over time. Involve staff in making the gym a secure workplace – they are often in the best position to identify what the risks and hazards in the workplace are as they evolve over time.

 

Example Job Hazard Analysis

Removing a stuck t-nut (at ground level) behind a climbing wall.

 

Sample Job Hazard Analysis

Resources and References

  1. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/oshact/section5-duties
  2. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3071.pdf
  3. https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/getting-started.html

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson holds a Masters of Science Degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and has over fifteen years of work experience in workplace and environmental safety and health. He’s worked with local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Since 2007, Aaron has applied his experience to the indoor climbing industry as a gym owner/operator, coach, routesetter, instructor, and industry consultant/expert. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  job hazard analysis  OSHA  risk management  standards 

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An Interview with Jesse Williams, Work-at-Height Trainer

Posted By Laura Allured, Monday, October 8, 2018
Jesse Williams Work at Height

With our annual Certification Summit coming up next month, we wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the Work-at-Height program, and there's nobody better to ask than Jesse Williams, one of our top Work-at-Height trainers! Read on to learn about the background of the program, what the various levels cover, and the future of the Work-at-Height standard.


 

Climbing Wall Association (CWA): Jesse, can you tell us about your professional background and what got you connected with the Work-at-Height program?

Jesse Williams (JW): In college I climbed regularly on an early 90’s generation plywood & plastic climbing wall, before graduating into a 23+ year outdoor climbing career. I started as a local rock & ice climbing instructor in the Adirondacks, and eventually became a fully certified AMGA Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guide (IFMGA Mountain Guide).

 

In 2015 I moved to Salt Lake City to work for Petzl America, which opened the door to training in the industrial safety, rope access, and fall protection industries. Salt Lake City is also on the leading edge of the indoor climbing industry, with both the Front and Momentum climbing gyms in town.

 

At that time, the CWA began to recognize a need for industry-specific training in Work-at-Height for climbing wall workers, because rope-access training and certification was thought to be too onerous. CWA partnered with the Petzl Technical Institute to provide ‘awareness’-level instruction and developmental workshops for the climbing gym industry.

 

I’ve stayed involved through the adoption of the standard and development of curriculum because I like the combination of sport and work environments, and I support the career professionalization of ALL climbing workers, indoors and out.

 

CWA: From your perspective, what is the purpose of the Work-at-Height program? What is it intended to accomplish for the indoor climbing industry, and why is it needed?

JW: Climbing wall workers have often relied on an informal mix of techniques for access and work positioning, mostly based on simple recreational climbing systems and a recreational climbing perspective on assumed risk. But this is work, not play, and as facilities have gotten bigger and taller, and more workers are employed in the industry, several factors are apparent:

  1. Workers exposed to a fall hazard are required by federal law to be protected from the hazard. Compliance with this is not optional. The Work-at-Height standard is intended to assist and support climbing gyms by making their duties clear, by defining terms, by defining a recognized set of industry standard practices, and worker training processes.
  2. Work practices in climbing gyms may not be immediately recognizable to regulators or inspectors from conventional industries, route forerunning might be an example, but if we can define what climbing workers do in the context of similar applications that have been standardized in professional climbing, industrial rope access, and fall protection programs, then we (as opposed to external regulators) can determine the best practices for our work, and thereby demonstrate our compliance.
  3. Climbing Wall Workers can benefit from learning to use and apply industrial access and work positioning systems like work seats, full body suspension harnesses, and mechanical advantage rope systems. These systems not only provide a higher degree of security, but are purposefully designed for work at height, allowing workers to work smarter and more efficiently, with less injury, over a long-term career.
  4. Commercial climbing gyms have changed the traditional path of climber development in terms of progressive technical skills and movement abilities. Many gyms already have their own culture of skill mentorship, and the Work-at-Height program defines common technical skills for climbing wall workers everywhere, and provides a structure and path for a worker to develop deeper technical proficiency beyond simple sport climbing skills.

 

CWA: Who should take a Work-at-Height certification course?

JW: Any climbing facility workers who are assigned job tasks that include ‘working at height’ (basically higher than 6 ft off the ground as defined by OSHA), such as routesetters, inspectors or maintenance workers, will benefit from the practical training with explicit instruction in the tools and techniques recognized in the standard, and insight into how other industries access and position for work and rescue.

 

Managers, owners, and operators benefit from an orientation to the regulatory environment, and instruction in the administration and management of a Written Fall Protection Program.

 

CWA: What are the applications of the Work-at-Height training for indoor climbing professionals? Why is it relevant to a climbing facility?

JW: The courses are taught in progressive steps – Competent Person and then Qualified Person.

 

After reviewing workplace safety regulations and relevant industrial and equipment standards, participants in the Competent course get into practical skill sessions, including:

  • Conducting a job hazard analysis
  • How fall protection controls are used to protect workers
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for work at height – selection and care
  • Comparison of sport and industrial fall protection systems
  • Improvised anchor construction
  • Belay management and load transfers
  • Rope ascending and descending systems
  • Selection of standardized access and work positioning methods
  • Tool & material hauling and positioning systems
  • Worker/Partner rescue

After mastering the practical skills, participants in the Qualified Person course also review the primary components of a Written Fall Protection Plan, Rescue Plan, and Worker Training Program and work with fellow participants to develop a template for their own operations.

 

CWA: What is the difference between Work-at-Height for Competent Persons vs. Work-at-Height for Qualified Persons?

JW: In industrial safety, the terms ‘Authorized’, ‘Competent’, and ‘Qualified Person’ are often used to define workers and their respective roles in a managed safety program.

 

Authorized Workers are those currently trained by their employer in the specific methods to be used for work at height within their facility/operation. Competent Workers are trained and assessed in standardized methods to access all of the potential work zones in a facility and to perform rescues of other workers (or participants) from those work zones. This course focuses primarily on those practical and applied aspects.

 

Qualified Workers are supervisory level - they should already be Competent Workers (or have the equivalent experience & abilities) and have taken on additional responsibilities for the management of a Written Fall Protection Program for their facility. This course focuses more on those administrative aspects.

 

CWA: What are the pre-requisites for Competent?

JW: Participants in these courses are often commercial and competition routesetters, Climbing Wall Instructors, and ‘hands-on’ operations managers in smaller facilities.

 

Adult (18+) Climbing Wall Workers taking the Competent Person course should:

  • have good modern belay technique on lead and top-rope (and it will be required by the host gym/training facility)
  • be able to comfortably lead 5.9 on artificial terrain, and to comfortably perform physically strenuous work at height
  • be familiar with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they use and the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to properly use, inspect, and care for it
  • be able to ascend and descend a rope
  • know how to construct an improvised two-person anchor on a climbing wall

 

CWA: What skills do students learn in Competent?

JW: Participants learn how to use a selection of recognized access methods, from belayed lead & aid climbing to industrial dual rope systems, for work on the front of a climbing wall.

 

On the back of the climbing wall, participants learn how to properly use industrial fall arrest systems for access and positioning, and the real challenges presented by confined spaces.

 

Participants also learn how to use rope systems to safely position larger tools and materials, and methods to rescue someone from an elevated work zone.

 

CWA: What are the pre-requisites for Qualified?

JW: Participants in these courses are often head routesetters, operations managers & directors, or very hands-on owner/operators.

 

Adult (18+) Climbing Wall Workers taking the Qualified Person course should meet ALL of the Competent Person course prerequisites, in addition to:

  • two-years work-at-height experience routesetting, or equivalent experience
  • “Work at Height for Competent Persons” certification or equivalent training and experience
  • knowledge/experience with the industrial fall protection hierarchy of controls
  • the technical ability to tie commonly used knots & hitches
  • the ability to ‘tie off’ a belay device for hands-free operation
  • the ability to haul material using a drop-proof rope system

 

CWA: What skills do students learn in Qualified?

JW: Participants first review the Competent Person technical skills and access methods, as the Qualified Person’s role is to perform a hazard assessment and then prescribe appropriate equipment, methods and training for their Competent Workers. They need to have already applied those skills at some point in their career.

 

The second half of the course is more classroom-based and focuses on the formal process of Job Hazard Analysis for various common work-at-height tasks in climbing facilities. The participants work together in a workshop format to develop a common template for their own Written Fall Protection Program.

 

CWA: Does the course provide equipment? What equipment do I need to provide for myself?

JW: The course provider will provide appropriate equipment for the course from an inspected and managed PPE inventory. Participants may use their own equipment, provided they have documentation that it has been inspected, is fit for service and is compatible with the application. Closed-toe shoes are required. Participants should bring their own gloves and eye protection and can use their own helmet if appropriate.

 

CWA: What does a facility need to be able to host a Work-at-Height course?

JW: A suitable host facility has:

  • a private ‘classroom’ or meeting space with tables and digital AV capabilities (projector or display screen) and guest WiFi access
  • an isolated training area on the front of the climbing wall with access to both top-rope and lead terrain, and (preferably) access to floor or ground level anchors
  • access to an open, well-lit, and clean teaching and practical training space behind the wall with exposed structure
  • a large volume climbing hold, pre-equipped with anchor hangers
  • an A-frame ladder, less than 20 feet in height, with stabilizing boards on the feet, moveable plywood or removable padding

 

CWA: What would you say is the future of the Work-at-Height program? Do you see it evolving?

JW: We have to embrace the idea of continuous improvement. I think training in these work practices can become part of the career progression for routesetters and operations managers in this industry that are eager to make it a long-term profession, and they will add demonstrable value to any operation with their expertise.

 

I am also eager to see how the professional routesetting community evolves and refines this too. Work-at-Height covers all work tasks in a facility, but I was encouraged at the 2018 CWA Summit to hear discussion of complimentary routesetting-specific programs that will use and reference the standardized Work-at-Height methods for their access and work positioning but will focus more specifically on the practical art and science of commercial routesetting. Continued input from the routesetting community is key, as they are typically the most skilled technicians in a facility.

 

My own role in this project is transitional, as a liaison between the worlds of industrial and professional climbing. We’ve had some very talented and experienced routesetters, managers, and climbers through the Work-at-Height program so far, and once they are oriented to the industrial safety tools, techniques, and requirements and have some time to develop them, I think we’ll see even more creative, effective (and compliant!) solutions specific to Work-at-Height in the climbing gym environment. Those trained and certified workers will be very valuable within the industry: to manage risk for workers and keep businesses protected.

 

Tags:  certifications  standards  work-at-height 

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