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A Review of Climbing Gym Reopening Policies – May 2020

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, June 26, 2020
May Reopening Survey Results

While shaping the CWA's Roadmap to Reopening, we’ve been monitoring the various guidance that has come from many states, counties, provinces, and countries in response to COVID-19. We’ve also been speaking to a lot of gym owners and operators and surveying the industry to gain insight into trends and individual choices. This article will cover some of the hot areas of discussion and some surprising results from our research.

 

The full results of this survey can be viewed on the May 2020 Reopening Survey Dashboard

 

Opening Dates

In our first round of official surveying at the end of May, 25% of respondents had already opened their gyms or climbing walls. The remainder of facilities were expecting to open by the end of July with a few outliers looking at September and November openings. Currently, it looks like a little over half of the gyms in North America are open, but our next round of surveying in late June should give us a more solid picture – keep an eye out for the survey invitation next week!

 

Reopening Guidance

As gyms created their individual reopening plans, they relied on a number of different resources. The hyper-local nature of laws and regulations are reflected by the fact that more than three quarters of gyms were guided by local county, state, and provincial authorities.

 

Sources of Reopening Guidance

 

Visitor Agreements

By the end of May many gyms had not added COVID-19 specific language to their visitor agreements and had not sought any legal advice as to whether or not they should. About 25% of gyms had added specific clauses to their agreements with only 15% of total respondents consulting a lawyer. It is the CWA’s advice to consult a local attorney to help answer the question of whether or not you should add any specific COVID-19 related clauses. There are a number of states where this may not be an appropriate addition.

 

Occupancy Limits and Controls

On average, gyms are setting an occupancy cap at 35% of their normal occupancy limits. The maximum occupancy reported was 50% and the minimum 10%. As expected, a plurality of gyms are self-limiting to a more conservative number for their initial reopening capacities.

 

Occupancy Limit

 

The majority of respondents are using reservation systems and time blocks to manage occupancy. For the most part these time blocks are 2 hours long and most often only available to members and punch pass holders. Only 30% of gyms are allowing day pass sales during their initial reopening phase.

 

Our current feedback on these policies is that customers are enjoying reservation systems, but that most gyms are not reaching capacity during most time blocks. We are seeing some gyms shift away from this extra service. We will continue to survey and monitor these policies.

 

Occupancy

 

Rental Gear Policies

About 25% of gyms have chosen not to offer rental gear as they reopen, but most gyms have chosen to continue offering a large assortment of rentals. The notable exception is the small number of gyms renting chalk bags and a presumable increase in gyms offering liquid chalk as a rental.

 

Rental Gear

 

Chalk Policies

About 20% of gyms have made no change in their chalk policies and 20% have taken the stronger measure of only allowing liquid chalk. More than a third of gyms are recommending liquid chalk over regular chalk but not making any stronger requirements.

 

Chalk Policy

 

Mask Policies

Surprisingly, not every gym is requiring staff to wear masks. Only 85% of gyms make this a requirement. Of those that don’t require employees to wear masks, half do encourage this extra measure of PPE.

 

Staff Masks

 

It is slightly less common for gyms to require customers to wear masks with over 60% of gyms requiring some form of mask wearing, 85% requiring or recommending masks, and only 14% not requiring or recommending masks. Many of these mask policies are self-imposed with only 20% of respondents reporting that they are mandated by local authorities to require masks.

 

Customer Masks

 

Physical Distancing Policies

When it comes to encouraging physical distancing, gyms have employed a variety of different strategies. The most common tactics involved signage, floor markings, and traffic control. Additionally, many gyms have closed or limited access to locker rooms and showers. Very few gyms have made no changes at all. Only 20% of gyms have limited the number of belay tests and new climber orientations. This is inline with the fact that the majority of gyms are accepting new memberships and attempting to move towards restarting adult and youth programs.

 

Physical Distancing

 

Ongoing Development of Reopening Policies and Best Practices

We will continue to monitor and report gym and climbing wall policies as more and more facilities reopen. To help us gather industry-wide information, please continue to participate in our monthly reopening surveys.

 

Take the June survey now!

 

When it comes to deciding on the individual protocols for your own facility, use all available resources, survey your members, and monitor all rules and guidance, as many localities are evolving rapidly. You will need to remain flexible as new attitudes and mandates emerge.

 

To end on a bright note, the overall economic impact to our industry is severe, but the majority of organizations reported that they would be able to weather closures as long as 6 months to 1 year or more. As we begin to reopen, the outlook will hopefully be brighter as we learn to operate under new assumptions and rules.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Interim Executive Director at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, serving gyms, manufacturers, and many climbing friends and partners.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  customer service  hygiene  management  operations  PPE  risk management  staff training  workplace safety 

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Climbing Gym Workplace Health & Safety for COVID-19 - Part II

Posted By Aaron Gibson, Thursday, June 18, 2020
Workplace Safety Discussion COVID-19

In Part I of this article, I provided information about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for the health and safety of employees and practical approaches to managing workplace health and safety.

 

There are many unanswered questions and areas of legal concern, so the remainder of this article is going to focus on those areas. I’m including this section to discuss some of the more nuanced areas in workplace safety and health during the pandemic.

 

Please keep in mind that I am not an attorney – the views expressed here are my own opinions. You should seek legal expertise if you have additional questions or concerns.

 

On Guidance

The guidance provided by OSHA and CDC, are just that, guidance. The guidance does not create any “new legal obligations” – the recommendations are “advisory” in nature. OSHA does not have a designated pandemic enforcement branch that’s issuing citations for workplace violations. In fact, they have issued a memo about discretion in enforcement during the pandemic. As I’m sure you have noticed, the guidance across localities and agencies has, in many cases, conflicted. However, there are long-standing laws on health and safety, which have been in existence for years, that we are can apply as we see fit. The lack of clear directives has the potential to create legal issues between employees and employers.

 

Right now, there are industries, like hospitals, the meat-packing industry and online retail/distribution industries (i.e. Amazon) that have experienced extreme challenges in keeping their workforce safe during this pandemic – thankfully, climbing gyms are not in the same category as these businesses. I anticipate a number of lawsuits will originate from workplace health and safety issues as a result of systemic violations within these industries. The best approach for climbing gyms is to make a concerted effort to protect the health and safety of employees. In doing so, you are acknowledging that there is a hazard that must be addressed and taking action to protect your workforce.

 

To Mask or Not to Mask

The decision to have gym staff wear masks or not depends on local, state, and federal requirements, as well as virus trends in each region, the physical size of a facility, and each gyms’ health and safety program approach. One might demonstrate that masks are not necessary because the 6-foot distancing rule is able to be maintained. A gym owner has the authority to require masks of employees. Be careful, considerate and specific when setting policy. Do you have employees that have asthma or other issues that make it difficult for them to wear a mask? Is the policy flexible enough to allow employees to remove their mask for certain duties? Are disposable masks being used or cloth masks? If cloth masks are being used, how are they being cleaned?

 

Carefully consider the issuance and use of N95 respirators. Except under special circumstances, I would advise against them. Do not require over-protection of employees and then fail to protect them. If you issue an N95-respirator to an employee there are additional training requirements, there are fit-testing requirements, and a pre-use medical evaluation is required. OSHA has issued some guidance about the flexibility in use of N95-respirators for health care workers that may apply, but it is unclear if this applies to other industries. However, another reason to not require N95-repirators is that they are still in limited supply for front-line health care workers and they should be reserved for their use. Look to other means of control instead of N95-respirators.

 

Requiring the public to wear masks while in the gym is another issue entirely. We know that cloth face coverings are intended to protect people other than the user and more recent data suggests that there is some minimal level of protection to the wearer. This presents a unique set of challenges for the staff. The mask policy you implement for the public will have to be administered by the staff – they will be in the position of having to enforce that policy. To minimize the possibility of conflict, provide training to employees of how to deal with difficult customers and how to deescalate tense situations.

 

Though it is tangential to the scope of this article, violence in the workplace is a real concern. Since the pandemic, there have been multiple incidents where a customer has disagreed with a local business policy (i.e. having to wear a face covering) and the customer became disgruntle, was hostile, or resulted in violence. Thankfully, there have not been any such instances in climbing gyms that I am aware of. Communicating clearly with the public about your gym policy on face coverings is very important. Set expectations up front and take a positive approach to the benefits of wearing face coverings.

 

Policies

Having a policy and adhering to it are two different things. Maintain policies in writing. If you make a policy, stick to that policy. If the policy needs to be changed, document it. I am explicit in stating this because the origins of lawsuits are often rooted in the difference between what was written and what was done. It behooves the employer and the employee to have clear written policies that are abided by. That does not mean that a policy cannot be revised, if need be, but make sure that change is documented and communicated.

 

Communication

In the context of this pandemic, communication is key. Listen to and get feedback from staff. If we are to continue to improve, we need open lines of communication between members, the public, and staff. Part of creating a positive workplace safety culture is communication.

 

Written Safety and Health Programs

While many climbing gyms have safety rules and practice safe work practices, most do not have written health and safety programs to protect workers. I would encourage gym owners to take a serious look at developing comprehensive workplace safety programs that raise the level of professionalism in the industry and serve to protect workers.

 

In Conclusion

There is no singular “right way” to approach health and safety in the workplace. The “best approach” climbing gyms should take in protecting workers will vary based on a number of factors. If there is any consolation for climbing gym owners and staff, it’s that there is a collective of talents and resources available to draw from.

 

Everyone is eager to get back to work and back to climbing. In order to do so, maintaining the health and safety of our workforce will remain critical to the success of our industry.

 

Additional Guidance and References

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron 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 from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center School of Public Health and is an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) pursuing his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). He has over sixteen 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, as well as a gym owner and manager, a USA Climbing coach, certified routesetter, CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  operations  OSHA  PPE  risk management  workplace safety 

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Climbing Gym Workplace Health & Safety for COVID-19 - Part I

Posted By Laura Allured, Thursday, May 28, 2020
Updated: Friday, May 29, 2020
Workplace Safety COVID-19

It’s an understatement to say that climbing facilities have a lot to deal with right now. In addition to contending with the financial implications of getting members and customers back, gyms have to think about the various local, state, and federal rules for reopening. The decision to reopen for business comes down to a combination of issues that need to be weighed, each with their own risks. Among these issues is the safety and health of gym staff. The OSHA General Duty Clause requires that, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employee.” [OSH Act 1970]

 

Front desk staff, instructors, coaches, routesetters and the like are the faces of our industry and the first-line points of contact with the climbing public. Maintaining their health and safety during this pandemic is essential to keeping gyms safe and open for business.

 

This article is divided into two parts. The first part provides information about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for the health and safety of employees and practical approaches to managing workplace health and safety. Part II, which will be published next week, is a discussion section that is more interpretive and used to address specific questions related to legal issues and liabilities.

 

We must acknowledge that we are in unprecedented times for the climbing gym industry and small business as a whole. The playbook for such a pandemic is being written (and re-written) as we speak. There is some reliable information about the disease and transmission, but it is important to recognize that our understanding of “best practices” during this ongoing pandemic may change. However, there is a lot we can infer from infectious disease, in general, and that knowledge, along with existing evidence-based and peer-reviewed research and public health expertise, can act as a framework to advancing our position. The guidance provided here has been adapted from our current understanding of infectious disease controls, current workplace standards, and the best available science and public health policy, to date.

 

PART I – The Systematic Approach

Reopening Safely

The decision to reopen comes down to a number of factors. There are many types of gyms in different locations, with different populations and different local and state requirements. The focus here is on the aspects of the health and safety of employees. After reading through these questions you may realize that there is work to do. By taking additional time to think through these questions, discover answers, plan, and take a systematic approach you will be better prepared, more protective of your workers, and more likely to have a successful re-opening.

 

Consider the following questions:

  1. What is the prevalence of the virus in the community? (Monitor WHO, CDC, as well as local and state health departments.)
  2. Are there local, state, and federal orders that allow for reopening?
  3. Do we have appropriate health and safety policies and programs in place? If not, where are the gaps?
  4. What hazards are posed to staff?
  5. Have we adequately communicated with the staff and what are the concerns of the employees?
  6. What workplace controls are needed to protect staff?
  7. Do we have an infectious disease Emergency Response Plan for dealing with an outbreak?
  8. What enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be needed?
  9. Do we have adequate and appropriate PPE for employees?
  10. What additional staff training is required and how will we accomplish it?
  11. What human resource policies need to be adjusted to accommodate for sick or at-risk employees? (ADA and HIPPA requirements must be followed.)
  12. How will we track/measure the success of our policies?

Means of Exposure

We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to the disease COVID-19, is a novel virus (i.e. new, or not previously identified), for which there is currently no vaccine. As such, the best approach for one to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus [CDC].

 

The virus spreads easily between people. The most common and likely route of exposure is person-to-person contact. Current research suggests that the most likely path of transmission for the virus is via liquid droplets from a carrier of the virus. These droplets may remain aloft in the air during exhalation, talking, sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc. Droplets may also be transferred from other parts of the body, most commonly, the hands, to the face (mouth, nose, and eyes).

 

A secondary means of the virus spreading may be through contact with surfaces or objects. Once droplets are present on a surface the viability of the virus is based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the amount/quantity of droplets, type of material (i.e. plastic, metal, glass, wood, vinyl, etc.), and other variables. Research has shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable for a number of hours and up to a few days depending on various factors [NEJM Study].

 

According to credible health sources, COVID-19 is not spread through perspiration (sweat) however, items touched by many people in a gym (e.g., handholds, hangboards, ropes, carabiners, rental equipment, fitness equipment, etc.) could possibly pose a risk for transmission of settled respiratory droplets [Johns Hopkins School of Medicine FAQ].

 

Extrapolating from what we know about modes of transmission, in a climbing gym the most likely route of exposure would be through face-to-face interactions and direct contact with the patrons and co-workers. Other routes of exposures would be via communally handled or touched items coupled with a lack of good personal hygiene. Things like climbing walls, holds, volumes, ropes, rental shoes and harnesses, as well as other commonly touched areas around a gym including the front desk, keyboards/keypads, phones, waiver stations, door handles, and railings, provide the possibility of virus transfer.

 

Workplace Hazard Assessment

Identifying tasks where exposure may occur and addressing those areas ahead of time is a vital part of the process. A Workplace Hazard Assessment helps to systematically identify and address the risk to employees.

 

Climbing gyms have a high throughput of individuals and the amount of interaction and “contact” is relatively high compared to other workplaces. Based on the OSHA Occupational Risk Pyramid for COVID-19, many climbing gym workers align with the “Medium” exposure risk category. Medium exposure risks include those jobs that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e. within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2 but who are not known or suspected. The Lower exposure risk category include those jobs that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of having SARS-CoV-2 and frequent close contact is not likely to occur. This may pertain to those employees that work away from the public in an office.

 

A Hazard Assessment does not have to be a complex exercise, but it should be a written document that demonstrates that you went through the process. Performing a Hazard Assessment is the starting point for the next part of the process: Workplace Controls. [OSHA Hazard Assessment Tool].

 

Workplace Controls

Approach workplace safety from a systematic approach by implementing a hierarchy of controls. The best approach to workplace safety is likely going to require a combination of these controls. The purpose of the hierarchy of controls is to work from the “most effective” to the “least effective.” It may be that installing HEPA Negative Air machines throughout your gym is a highly effective control, but that may not be practical. Then again, there may be adjustments you can make to your existing HVAC system that improve it efficiency. Move through the hierarchy and then consider the administrative controls and finally, Personal Protective Equipment.

 

Engineering Controls

Engineering Controls are those controls that are design-based approaches and tools to keep workers from being exposed. The benefits to this approach are that they offer the highest level of protection and do not rely on worker behavior to be effective. An additional benefit is that these controls often are equally effective in providing protection to your customers. These controls include things like:

  • HEPA filtration units
  • High efficiency air filters
  • Increase of ventilation rates
    • Get fresh air into the gym
    • Maximize ventilation by using fans
  • Installation of physical barriers like acrylic sneeze guards
  • No-touch door opening-closing devices

Some drawbacks to engineering controls include the initial costs for the purchase of equipment, and limitations in types of exposures that are controlled. However, it is important to consider in your cost-comparisons the long-term benefit of engineering controls – there may be other benefits, like improved air quality, that are long term. An engineering control does not necessarily eliminate the hazard (i.e. the virus) but may offer an added level of protection.

 

Administrative Controls

An administrative control requires an action by the worker or the employer. These are changes in workplace policies and work procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. These include:

 

Flexible Work Schedules

  • Actively encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • Encourage sick employees to stay home without penalty.
  • Limit operational hours.
  • Change work shifts and alternating work days.
  • Perform routesetting off-hours when the public is not present.

Physical Distancing

  • Implement a social distancing plan for employees and public alike.
  • Limit the number of people in the gym.
  • Use physical barriers to create distancing and segregate areas.
  • Mark zones and minimum 6-foot intervals on the floor and pads.
  • Consider separate entrances and exits.
  • Instruct at a distance.
  • Consider the use of video and remote learning tools for training.
  • Limit access to fitness training areas.
  • Keep instructor to student ratio low.
  • Do not shake hands.

Employee Training

  • All employees must receive training about the gym’s health and safety policies and safe work practices.
  • Training must be administered if face-coverings/masks are being required.
  • Train employees on the importance of hand washing and proper method for hand washing.
  • As applicable, train employees on the proper housekeeping, cleaning, and disinfection methods.
  • Hazard Communication training should be provided on the safety and proper use of cleaning and disinfecting products. (Note: OSHA and the CDC have printable flyers available on their websites that can be posted.)
  • Training is required for how to put on and remove gloves.
  • If an N95 respiratory is being required, it must be within the context of a comprehensive respiratory protection program. (See additional notes about the use of N95 masks in Part II.)

Other Controls

  • Use an on-line sign up system.
  • Enable electronic payments and limit face-to-face transactions.
  • Provide hand washing stations at the front of the establishment or alternatively, hand sanitizer if not feasible.
  • Provide no-touch trash cans.
  • Supply no-touch hand sanitizing devices.
  • Provide tissues.
  • Establish “before and after” rules for hand washing.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The use of Personal Protective Equipment is an important tool that can be used to minimize the likelihood of exposure. PPE for SARS-CoV-2 include things like cloth face coverings, gloves, protective eyewear or facemasks, and respiratory protection. Employers are obligated to provide their workers with the PPE needed to keep them safe during work (29 CFR 1910.132).

 

It is important to distinguish between what we mean by face coverings vs. Respiratory Protection. Surgical masks and face coverings are intended to trap droplets expelled by the user, they may protect others from the wearer of the mask but are not substantial enough to protect the wearer from an inhalation hazard. More recent guidance from the CDC has noted that some minimal level of protection is afforded to the wearer against droplet exposure. On the other hand, a respirator – such as an N95 NIOSH-approved respirator (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – NIOSH) has a rated level of protection to the wearer. There are additional requirements for a worker that wears an N95 (or half-face or full-face) respirator. Workers must be part of a comprehensive written respiratory protection program that includes fit-testing, training, and a medical evaluation. (29 CFR 1910.134)

 

While PPE is a valuable component of your health and safety controls it is not a substitute for good hygiene and physical distancing.

 

Requirements for PPE include:

  • Training on the proper donning (putting on) and doffing (taking off) of masks and gloves
  • Proper disposal of used PPE to avoid contamination

Employers should be aware that cleaning products and disinfectants may contain hazardous chemicals that could be harmful to workers. When workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals (such as sanitizing agents) additional personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. Additional guidance for these specific areas can be found in OSHA’s Hazardous Communication standard (29 CR 1910.1200), in the PPE standard (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) and in the section specifically related to Housekeeping for hospital environments, which may apply here.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a list of products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2. Review product labels and Safety Data Sheets and follow manufacturer specifications.

 

Emergency Response Plan

Every climbing facility needs to consider the scenario where a presumed positive COVID-19 person has entered their facility. For this reason a workplace specific emergency response plan is necessary. CDC guidance recommends the following:

  • Be prepared to change your business practices, if needed, to maintain critical operations.
  • Establish an emergency communications plan. Identify key contacts (with back-ups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating about business and employee status.
  • Share your response plans with employees and clearly communicate expectations. It is important to let employees know plans and expectations if COVID-19 occurs in communities where you have a workplace.
  • In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But do close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
    • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets.
    • If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible. During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.

For Gym Owners

In addition to considering and incorporating the above items into your plan, consider the following as well:

  • If you do not already have one, designate a health and safety officer or a team. If that is not possible, seek outside expertise. A professional or company who specializes in workplace health and safety programs who has experience with climbing facilities is preferred.
  • Using the guidance herein, along with the additional references, develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan.
  • Develop a phase-in reopening plan. Your phased in plan should have measurable targets and contingencies in the event of changes.
  • Develop procedures for the prompt identification and isolation of sick employees.
  • Develop a wellness questionnaire. Employers have the right to require employees to participate in health screenings and monitoring programs for the purposes of protecting the workplace. A number of apps are coming to market that may help to monitor employee illness. Give additional consideration employees who are in an elevated-risk category as defined by the CDC (consult ADA). (Notes: Confidentiality of health data must be maintained and any health screenings should be made as private as possible.)
  • COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. Certain conditions apply including that it must be a “confirmed case” (i.e. presumptive positive test that was laboratory confirmed), the case must be “work-related,” (29 CFR 1904.5) and the case must meet certain criteria for days away from work and have required medical treatment (29 CFR 1904.7).
  • Reduce and limit in-person staff meetings and gatherings.
  • Work with your local health department in tracking cases and staying abreast of the ongoing trends.

For Employees

Employees have an important role to play in maintaining their own health and safety and in protecting their co-workers, the public, and the gym.

  • Evaluate your health and do not come to work sick.
  • Communicate with your manager about your condition.
  • Report unsafe conditions to management.
  • Abide by all physical distancing guidelines.
  • Wear face coverings at work and out in public when social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Participate and seek training for the proper use and limitations of PPE.

Our Work Here Is Not Done

It's clear that our understanding of best practices during this pandemic may change and the situation is evolving on a daily basis. In Part II of this article, I will focus on some of the unanswered questions and areas of legal concern. Keep an eye out for this information covering the more nuanced areas of workplace safety and health next week.

 

Additional Guidance and References

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron 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 from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center School of Public Health and is an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) pursuing his Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP). He has over sixteen 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, as well as a gym owner and manager, a USA Climbing coach, certified routesetter, CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  hygiene  management  operations  OSHA  PPE  regulations  risk management  sanitization  staff training  workplace safety 

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Follow up on remaining Hygiene Brainstorm questions

Posted By Garnet Moore, Monday, April 27, 2020
Lonely Climbing Wall

On April 21, the CWA held a Hygiene Brainstorm community call for members to share their questions, ideas, and concerns about all things hygiene related. This is one of the largest areas of concerns for gyms at the moment, and the CWA is working to provide solid guidance as we begin to look towards reopening.

 

As we conduct research and work with our partners, calls like this are a great way to hear your individual concerns and give you updates on what we know at this moment. If you are not already participating in our calls please register now to join us.

 

This was one of our most active calls and there were a number of questions that we didn’t get to cover live. Read on for answers to those questions and some great insights from some of the participants on this call.

 

1. Someone mentioned not filling water bottles at our facility. Why?

 

As with any high-traffic area like door knobs, computer keyboards, etc., drinking fountain actuators should be cleaned regularly. However, you should not be concerned about providing water in general. SARS-COV-2 has not been detected in drinking water at this time.

 

2. Wouldn't low route density force more hands/feet on the same holds? There's almost a case to be made for more routes to spread out contact...

 

Climber’s personal hygiene will be as important to your reopening strategy as your cleaning procedures. While there is no practical guaranteed way to sanitize holds in-between climbs or even overnight, the gathering of climbers in common spaces is something that can be limited. Reducing route density or access could help limit people’s natural inclinations to congregate in confined areas.

 

3. Are all gyms eliminating shared lead ropes? Seems like it will be impossible to keep them clean and members will have to bring their own rope.

 

As we all know there are a lot of risks in climbing, and in operating a climbing gym. Balancing which risk is greater than another is something that we constantly do. If you have chosen to provide lead ropes rather than let customers bring their own, make sure that any changes to this policy consider all areas of risk. You may even need to change your waiver, gym rules, or any published information to cover any potential liability.

 

It is not impossible to safely provide lead ropes to your customers, but it may not be something you wish to do. You can clean ropes with warm water and soap and then let them air dry – this is sufficient to sanitize them as long as your soaking or cleaning time follows the directions of your chosen cleaning product. You can add a policy requesting that climbers do not bite the rope to get more slack - in most gym settings, bolts are close enough that careful routesetting could eliminate the need for more than an arm length of slack. And, you can quarantine your ropes for a period of time prior to redistributing them to your customers. Seven to ten days should be sufficient, but the science is still in development for determining how long SARS-COV-2 can stay active on these types of materials.

 

4. For gyms with fixed GriGris on ropes as a high contact usage, what cleaners and protocols would work without compromising the rope integrity?

 

Check with the manufacturers of your ropes on chemical compatibility, but in general the safest cleaning method will be soap and warm water. In general bleach should not be used on nylon products and there is some evidence that alcohol will not significantly weaken some common rope materials. However, the frequency of cleaning has not been thoroughly tested and the safest cleaning method would be soap followed by rinsing with clean water.

 

5. Is there any kit to test if surfaces have COVID-19 presence (active/inactive) on them? If yes, we could run test on hold (starting holds) and see if the gym has been contaminated.

 

Currently there are no publicly available tests like this, and it is unlikely that there will be. The only method of testing for an active virus is to attempt to grow the virus in a cell-culture. This is a great time to highlight a comment made on the call that some studies and public news reports discuss the presence of viral RNA, which is not necessarily the same as an active virus. When digesting information about COVID-19 make sure that you understand the information being presented in full before making any policy or decisions.

 

6. Is anyone considering requiring temperature to be taken prior to entering the facility?

 

This is an interesting question that may be guided by local regulations more than individual gym choice. While some gyms may have to, or choose to, do this it is unknown at this time whether the possible asymptomatic spread could be stopped with this measure. Encouraging your customers to be courteous to others and stay home if they are sick may be an effective way to place this responsibility on them rather than your staff.

 

If you do need to take temperatures prior to entry make sure that you do so in a respectful and private manner and follow other basic health screening guidelines as well to protect your staff and your customers.

 

7. We are planning on spraying down our bouldering gym between sessions with a disinfectant. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Make sure that any chemicals used in a gym, especially in such a broad application, are compatible with all materials present. Find out what the active ingredients of your disinfectant are and analyze what sorts of safety equipment, paints, flooring, and other materials are present in your facility. Keep in mind that repeated exposure can have different effects than spot testing might reveal.

 

8. What about high pressure steam cleaning? does it disinfect? can we use it on ropes and harnesses?

 

There is not definitive evidence on SARS-COV-2 stability yet, but there is some evidence that higher temperatures will affect viability. However, steam cleaning is not a quick or inexpensive process and soap and warm water may be equally effective, faster, and cheaper. When it comes to ropes and harnesses there are temperature guidelines that you need to pay attention to, in general only warm water should be used on these materials – check with your gear manufacturer for specific temperature guidelines. Even common flooring materials can suffer from overly frequent steam cleaning.

 

9. Are gyms going to continue top rope testing / lead testing - what kind of staff to member contact will be stopped? Even some members still need to be tested.

 

Part of your facility’s hygiene will be the ways in which you protect your staff. You may decide to, or be required to, put up acrylic shields at your front desk, provide PPE to your staff, and to evaluate your staff's duties and create additional protocols based on their exact tasks. When it comes to the proximity required during belay tests you could require additional levels of PPE for your staff and customers. You could also create designated areas with preset testing rigs that allow for additional distance between employees and staff.

 

10. Is the CWA going to make cool posters for any of these topics?

 

Yes! We will be rolling out posters aimed at your customers and your staff. We want to help you communicate the extra measures you are taking to keep your facility as low risk as possible and we want to remind everyone in your gym about their personal responsibility in keeping themselves and others from getting sick.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  human resources  hygiene  operations  risk management  sanitization  staff training 

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When Can Rock Gyms Reopen?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, April 24, 2020
Gym Reopening

In the US, the administration announced a plan for “Opening Up America” on April 16th. There is some confusion about this plan since no timeline was provided and it leaves a lot of the specifics up to individual businesses and local authorities. It is also important to note that states that do allow for reopening are doing so only when meeting what has been termed “gating criteria”.

 

In order for a state to reopen, they must have realized a downward trend of both flu like and coronavirus like symptoms within a 14 day period, seen a downward trend in documented COVID-19 cases, maintained or increased current testing volume, had a downward trend of positive test results in a 14 day period, and had hospitals transition to treating all patients without crisis care.

 

Gyms are broadly included in Phase 1 of this program, but there is not clear guidance on what you should be thinking about when making the choice to reopen. The official plan only states that “gyms can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.”

 

Unfortunately, there is not great clarity on what exactly is meant by sanitation protocols or physical distancing. Currently the US advises individuals to avoid socializing in groups greater than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing. Sanitation protocols are also not defined in an appropriately detailed manner. However, you can turn to your local health department for the most relevant guidance for your business. When it comes to following regulations these organizations and your city government will be the most direct authority in the US.

 

Similarly, in many of the countries that have more advanced pandemic timelines than the US, some gyms may be able to make the choice to reopen beginning in early May. Many of these countries may receive stronger guidance from their local authorities, but some decisions will still be up to individual owners. It is important to be aware of what laws you need to follow locally. Any policies that you create should be, at the very least, in alignment with WHO recommendations.

 

The WHO has developed some risk assessment tools for mass gatherings, and these may be one of the most authoritative ways to evaluate what level of risk is present in your gym. The WHO has even updated these guidelines with information specific to sporting events. These guidelines may be more directly applicable to the public areas of climbing gyms than the general workplace guidance, which is more suitable to office environments.

 

At the CWA, we are working to accelerate the publishing of our guidance for you in these areas. We have started two committees to help advise on the resources we’ve been gathering and developing. One committee is focused on the hygiene and cleanliness guidelines which are most applicable and appropriate for an indoor climbing gym. The other committee is focused on reopening policies and procedures. As quickly as possible, the CWA will publish a digital white paper similar to our Coronavirus Resource Hub which will be updated real-time as new science emerges over the coming months.

 

It is important to remember that all of this does not mean that you must reopen. When making that decision keep in mind your brand, your customer’s attitudes, and your needs as a business. A hasty decision now could have unintended consequences for your business for years. Whether that is the way that your community perceives your attitude or the way that your policies may lead to new expectations from your members. But, no matter what you decide, make sure that you communicate openly and often with your members to make sure that they know what you are planning and why.

 

Your customers cannot wait to get back to the gym, and when you feel it is the right time to reopen your core customers will be there for you. Even though we are all faced with a mountain of uncertainty at the moment, the future still looks bright for climbing.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  management  member communications  operations  risk management 

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Billing Challenges in the Fitness Industry

Posted By Garnet Moore, Thursday, April 16, 2020
Fitness Gyms Billing Challenges

As the majority of gym closures enter into their fifth week and some customers will soon be making the choice to stay committed to your gym for the second month, you should make sure that your options are in line with any local laws and with the expectations of your community. The indoor climbing industry can learn from some of the challenges faced by health clubs and work to avoid any unnecessary regulation.

 

Some states, such as Maryland, have laws enacted that limit fitness center options based on the length of closure. As always there are subtleties to these laws and often laws pertaining to health clubs do not apply to climbing gyms. However, news articles, social media, and public sentiment may affect your member’s thinking and your messaging should be clear, consistent, and constant.

 

A prominent example of the risks involved is the New York Sports Clubs. Their lack of messaging has frustrated their members to the point that a class action lawsuit has been filed against their parent company. They have received massive backlash on social media, and a petition protesting their response has over 1,500 signatures.

 

Another example, from a sibling company to the NYSC, the Boston Sports Clubs in Massachusetts has seen intervention by the state’s Attorney General after receiving hundreds of complaints.

 

By staying informed of the public sentiment and any developments in your area, you can potentially avoid any similar legal challenges.

 

The one-month timeline has surfaced in a number of health clubs as a turning point in policy and communication style. After receiving negative criticism from the public and a lawsuit in California, 24 Hour Fitness has announced that they will automatically suspend billing if they are not able to reopen one month after closing. As many climbing gyms enter the second month of closure now, is the time to keep customers informed.

 

Climbing gyms tend to have more consumer-friendly policies than the fitness industry, where in-person cancellations and notice-periods are not uncommon. But as closures wear on, you need to pay attention to the needs and moods of your customers. It has been heartening to see the number of climbers who are willing to stay committed to their gyms, and hopefully some amount of reopening is not too distant, but small missteps now could potentially harm your ability to re-engage with those customers. At the moment, there is no substitute for constant and considerate communication.

 

It is also important at times like these to be as consistent as possible as an industry, have similar policies to gyms in your state and region, and (again) follow any applicable local regulations. It is, of course, necessary to seek out any revenue you can while having to stay closed, and it is hard to consider these additional challenges. But, by being proactive and staying in touch with your members about your decisions and their options, you can stay ahead of any potential risks.

 

If you do experience any regulatory or legal challenges get in touch with the CWA to let us know what we can do to help. Our volunteers are keeping an eye on regional legal developments and we will add any new laws or potential risks to our records.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  billing  coronavirus  COVID-19  member communications  regulations  risk management 

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Insurance Update From Monument Sports

Posted By Monument Sports Group, Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Monument Sports Group

As the COVID-19 impact has developed, we have been in touch with most CWA members. Our office will continue working extended hours during the week and weekend to make sure that we are available to you to discuss your questions and concerns. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy as we all do our best to navigate this unprecedented health and financial crisis.

 

Business Income/Business Interruption

Unfortunately, Insurance Carriers have been responding in line with expectations outlined in the prior CWA COVID-19 communication and discussed in the insurance portion of the first CWA Community Call: COVID-19 Business Income claims are being filed and subsequently denied regularly.

 

The standard COVID-19 Business Income claim denial will most likely refer to Virus or similar exclusions and state that virus has not caused Direct Physical Damage. These results should not deter any gym from filing a Business Income claim. We still recommend filing loss of income claims and the Carrier will need to review and determine coverage.

 

Many of you are hearing about coverage terms such as Civil Authority and Contingent Business Income. If you file a claim and the Carrier’s response does not address those issues, then note that the claims adjuster should be prepared to expand upon those particular subjects and if they apply to your claim. Business Income is a complicated subject even in the best of times and these are complex claim scenarios.

 

Our office is available to discuss this topic further and provide additional details and resources. Given that it is widely known that the typical policy is not covering Business Income claims from COVID-19, legal and legislative efforts are underway.

 

Legal and Legislative Developments

Also, as expected, lawsuits challenging Business Income Claim denials have been filed quickly, with the first being in Louisiana and more to follow.

 

While the legal process plays out, state legislatures are also contemplating action. New Jersey was the first state to introduce a bill that would force Carriers to pay COVID-19 related Business Income claims (despite specific exclusions or other issues). Currently MA, OH, NJ, and NY are all considering legislation, but experts indicate that constitutionality will be a significant obstacle. We expect additional states to consider legislation or potentially involve their respective Departments of Insurance.

 

Federal level discussions are less visible at this point, but various ideas have been suggested including using the expertise of the Carriers to adjust Business Income claims on a national scale but have the government fund the claims. Ultimately and while not helpful immediately, coverage for future Pandemic-related losses might be available in the same fashion that Terrorism coverage is now available.

 

Our office has reached out to our local legislators to ensure that they understand that the Business Income claims are being denied and that gyms are significantly impacted.

 

Please note that even if Business Income coverage is eventually triggered, the amount of coverage could be very limited. While we are all hopeful that the recent federal relief package will provide immediate relief, we know that will not be enough. We encourage gym owners to use all their available contacts as well to increase awareness on all of these issues. We will continue to press forward on all fronts.

 

General Insurance Company and Program Company Update

In 2013, the CWA tasked Monument Sports with finding a General Liability Carrier that would stabilize the program and be a long-term partner. Everest Insurance has been the preferred General Liability Carrier since 2013.

 

We have relied on that initial commitment and long-term relationship as we have had extensive discussions with them recently on the financial crisis many gyms are facing. They have confirmed they understand the challenges the pandemic has caused the climbing gym community and will work with us to look for solutions to help.

 

First, they are deferring almost all outstanding invoices by 60 days (add 60 days to the due date shown on the invoice that you are looking at). Please contact our office directly on your invoices so we can ensure there is no confusion.

 

Secondly, Everest recognizes that most current General Liability policy premiums were based on anticipated revenue figures provided prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Everest has committed to work with Monument Sports and the gyms to review those premiums to ensure that the negative revenue impact caused by the pandemic is a factor in determining the final premiums. Gyms with coverage renewing right now are being prioritized, but any gym is welcome to reach out to us to get additional details or ask questions.

 

In addition to Everest, most Carriers for all Lines of Coverage are providing flexibility with billing plans and deferring payments, but it will depend on the particular Carrier. Further, many states are issuing guidelines requiring additional time to pay, as well as adjusting rules for cancellation and non-renewal.

 

MSG clients should contact us directly if they have questions on any current or upcoming invoices. We will continue to send those based on initial installment plans but are ready to work with the Carriers and gyms as needed. As a reminder, some installment plans might have been set up for automatic withdrawal, so make sure to follow appropriate steps to discontinue those if desired.

 

We have done our best to provide broad updates on a variety of topics pertaining to an unprecedented situation, but please note that each gym's policies and circumstances are different and they should reach out to us with specific questions and engage with relevant experts in other fields.

 

Community Call With Monument

We will be joining the CWA for a Community Call to answer questions and provide additional guidance on Thursday, April 9 at 10am mountain. Register now to join us.

 

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions or need assistance. You can send any inquiries to msg@monumentsports.com or reach us by phone at 866-674-1234

 

Sincerely,
Mark Grossman and the MSG team

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  insurance  risk management 

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My Gym Is Closed, Now What?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, March 20, 2020
Closed Now What

Whether you closed your gym voluntarily, or you are in an area where your gym was forced to close, you are dealing with some challenging questions at the moment. We want to remind you that you do have options and that the CWA is here to help in any way possible.

 

If you have not done so already, reach out to your insurance provider, your landlord, and any lenders to see what deferments are available. All of these providers know that this is not your fault and that indoor climbing, in general, is a viable business model. They will prefer to help you rather than see you go out of business. In some cases, they may be eligible in the future for aid in relation to any assistance they provide, and as the situation develops rapidly, they may even have restrictions on when and how they collect payments.

 

Many banks are offering 90-day deferments for loans. You may even be able to accumulate your principal and interest payments for the next 6 months and have them added to your final loan payment. The best course of action is to start the conversation as soon as possible. Similarly, your landlord may be willing, or mandated to, defer your rent payments and to wait to collect any rent owed until after the pandemic is over.

 

Likewise, insurance policies could be frozen, claims could be filed, and there may be some potential to renegotiate liability premiums to account for changes in your forecasted income. The CWA’s partner, Monument Sports Group, is working to negotiate with the insurance carriers on behalf of the entire industry. Mid-term policy adjustments, payment deferments, and extending policy terms are some possibilities to ease some of the pressure you are feeling. Monument has also contacted carriers outside of the CWA program to encourage that they explore similar options.

 

Possibly the most difficult decisions you will be making are around your employees. Assistance is coming rapidly and you should pay attention to your local department of labor for any changes they have made which could allow you to lay off or reduce the hours of employees knowing that they are eligible for unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages.

 

On March 18th the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and its provisions will help support those efforts. This act also will affect what leave you have to provide your employees and how you must pay them during extended leave. For a more thorough review, read our analysis of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

 

An often-overlooked area of savings is the benefits that you offer your employees. You can explore the option to suspend or cancel any non-essential benefits such as dental or vision insurance and retirement benefits. Discuss these options with your lawyer to make sure that you are not violating any employment contracts.

 

While the full range of assistance programs are being determined, the most immediate program you may have access to is the SBA Disaster Loan Program. If you qualify, you are eligible for a loan up to $2 million at an interest rate of 3.75% with a term of 30 years. To apply go directly to their website and begin the application.

 

The CWA will be here for you throughout this crisis and after. The long-term future of the climbing industry still looks very bright and it is vital to remember that your customers can’t wait to get back into the gym.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  financing  human resources  leadership  management  operations  risk management 

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CWA’s Public Policy Agenda: Protecting Our Sport

Posted By Robert Angell, Monday, February 17, 2020
Climbing Gym Regulations

If you are a gym owner or operator, chances are you have been approached by a representative of a government agency in your state at one time or another, and informed that the agency has begun, or is about to begin, a licensing and inspection scheme involving your operation. This article will walk you through the CWA’s stance on regulatory issues and how those issues can impact climbing wall operators like you.

 

Through its public policy agenda, the CWA works to prevent inappropriate licensing and inspection schemes that drive up costs for you and your members and may increase your members’ risk of injury.

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda includes the following policy statements:

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda involves educating our members on policy matters that may have an impact on their programs and businesses; promoting positive regulatory and business conditions for the industry; and promoting sound public policy regarding health, physical education and recreation. The CWA ... coordinates activity on the state and local levels to defend against policies, laws, or regulations that might be harmful to our members or the public.

 

Legislatures have proposed laws that would allow state or provincial governments to establish licensing requirements, enact regulations, and administer climbing gym inspections. Frequently this is accomplished by applying amusement licensing laws to sports and recreation facilities, which we oppose.

 

Several state legislatures have proposed bills that would severely restrict use of visitor or participation agreements, specifically weakening liability protections for the business owner[;] we maintain that these liability protections are necessary for the long term health and viability of a sport like climbing.

 

State amusement licensing laws were mainly enacted before the advent of the dedicated indoor climbing facility and are somewhat similar from state to state. Ohio’s law is fairly typical:

 

"Amusement ride" means any mechanical, aquatic, or inflatable device, or combination of those devices that carries or conveys passengers on, along, around, over, or through a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area for the purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement. (ORC 1711.50(A))

 

The three elements, “mechanical device,” “carries or conveys passengers on, along ... a fixed or restricted course,” and “purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement” are common to the pre-indoor climbing amusement statutes.

 

State agencies charged with regulating amusement devices and venues have indulged some tortured interpretations of these elements in order to fit commercial climbing walls into the amusement regulatory scheme. Most of these efforts involve the “mechanical device” and “fixed course” elements. State agencies have contended that carabiners, auto belays, holds, and harnesses fit the definition of “mechanical device.”

 

One state regulator even asserted that the wall itself is a “mechanical device” that “conveys passengers” to the top. The regulators then argue that the set routes on the walls fit the definition of “fixed course.”

 

The practice of classifying climbing walls as amusement devices has real-world consequences for the operator. States can:

  • impose high registration and licensing fees (which may be assessed per-wall instead of per-facility);
  • subject operators to inspections by inspectors trained to inspect amusement rides;
  • adopt operational standards designed for the amusement industry;
  • and subject operators to onerous penalties for failing to comply with the regulatory scheme, including hefty monetary penalties, cease-and-desist orders, and even criminal liability.

Classifying climbing gym employees as amusement workers may result in as much as a fivefold increase in workers’ compensation premiums. In turn, the cost of participation goes up.

 

The CWA does not oppose regulation per se. We recognize that state agencies are charged with protecting the public and ensuring competent operations. However, we believe that regulation should be appropriately tailored to the realities of our sport.

 

Our argument is that a commercial climbing gym is a training and fitness facility that cannot be appropriately regulated as an amusement venue, and that applying amusement regulations to our sport may result in increased risk to participants.

 

The CWA has developed valuable resources that help us to make those arguments, including the Industry Practices, standards for climbing wall instructors, work-at-height, design and engineering, structural inspections, and the ClimbSmart! program. This focus on the function of the facility has served us well in a number of states.

 

If state regulators come calling at your gym, we are ready to help! Give us a shout or an e-mail if you have questions or concerns.

 

Bob Angell Head ShotAbout the Author

Robert Angell is an Ohio- and Colorado-licensed attorney concentrating in the areas of administrative law, recreation, amusement, and entertainment law, and business formation. He served on the CWA Board of Directors from 2006 to 2013 and was reappointed to the Board in 2019. Bob has been instrumental in regulatory initiatives on behalf of CWA members across the U.S. since 2005. His clients include many gyms in Ohio and other states.

 

Tags:  certifications  operations  public policy  regulations  risk management  standards 

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Long Term Athlete Development: From Good to Great in Climbing

Posted By Heather Reynolds, Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Long Term Athlete Development Climbing Escalade Canada

With the Olympics now entertaining climbing as a competitive sport worthy of being an ongoing part of the games, many young climbers have far greater dreams than those who came before them. Now youth can dream of podiums, medals, and national flags. Social media is bringing the best of the best front and center on our Instagram and Facebook feeds, influencing an entire generation of young climbers to dream of competing among the elite.

 

Growth in participation, as well as the elevated aspirations of our young athletes, is an exciting opportunity for the sport of climbing. However, it is important to think long-term when creating training plans and programming for young athletes; that’s where Long Term Athlete Development comes in.

 

THE HISTORY OF LONG TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT

To understand where the LTAD program came from, you have to go back to the 1952-1988 era of Russian dominance at the Olympics. The repeated defeats on the international stage forced countries like Canada, Britain, and the US to look at what Russia was doing to develop their winners.

 

What they discovered was that Russia had created academic schools which also focused on developing athletes. Russia was simply using a concentrated method of developing the skills, strength, and agility of athletes from a young age.

 

In 1995, Istvan Balyi, a sport scientist working with the National Coaching Institute in British Columbia, Canada, packaged the Long Term Athlete Development program to provide a framework for improving sport systems in Canada.

 

The initial LTAD program described four stages of development, however with more research and review, and the development in understanding athletes, the model now describes eight stages of developing athletes.

 

Each stage is geared toward development physically, mentally, and in skill.

  1. Active Start: Birth to age 6
  2. FUNdamentals: Age 6 to 8 (F) or 9 (M)
  3. Learn to Train: Age 9 to 11 (F) or 12 (M)
  4. Train to Train: Age 11-15 (F) or 12-16 (M)
  5. Learn to Compete: Age 15-17 (F) or 16-18 (M)
  6. Train to Compete (Sport Climbing: Learn to Win): Age 16 and older
  7. Train to Win (Sport Climbing: Winning for a Living): Age 18 and older
  8. Active for Life: Any age after the growth spurt.

Like most sport organizations who now recognize this LTAD model as a foundation for athlete development, Climbing Escalade Canada has rewritten the LTAD for Sport Climbing.

 

This comprehensive document provides athletes, parents, coaches, and climbing organizations a great opportunity to identify the stage of an athlete’s development, to structure and focus training development, and to bring a higher level of safety and professionalism to our sport.

 

It is important to note that this is not a one-size-fits-all model. Take Stage 3 as an example (the full chart is on page 13 of the CEC’s LTAD document):

 

Long Term Athlete Development Matrix Example

 

You’ll notice that not all 10 year olds will naturally have the FUNdamentals, or a solid foundation of movement skills, and those athletes may need additional support to catch them up in those areas. On the other hand, some 10 year olds may actually already be exceeding the Learn to Train level in strength and agility.

 

The CEC’s LTAD document breaks down each stage in full detail, which provides a guide to the appropriate strength and agility training, technical training, and mental and emotional development of the athlete. Use this guide to help you understand how to support your athletes at their various stages of development.

 

As our sport continues to grow and develop it will become more and more essential that coaches working with prospective competitors are able to provide a sustainable and healthy approach to athlete development. Stay tuned for my next post, where we will take a deeper look at the goal of the Long Term Athlete Development model.

 

References:

 

Heather Reynolds Head ShotAbout the Author

Heather is a licensed kinesiologist, High Five Trainer (Sport, PCHD), CEC Climbing Coach, and CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Certification Provider Trainer. She blends her knowledge of movement, physiology, and education to develop a multitude of successful climbing programs designed to support and engage youth. Having worked with youth for over 30 years as a recreation instructor, leader and educator, Heather supports the values and expertise available in the High Five Program, bringing quality assurance to youth-based sport and recreation programming.

 

Tags:  coaching  LTAD  programming  risk management  staff training  youth team  youth training 

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