Auto Belay Update

It appears that there has been a notable increase of near miss reports involving auto belays over the past few weeks. There has also been a small and concentrated number of serious (lifechanging) accidents, involving unattached climbers hitting the floor because of not being attached to an auto belay unit – when the climber’s intention was to be connected.

We wanted to remind our AIM Members who have Climbing Walls of the current ABC auto belay guidance notes, along with the potential implications of not being aware of them, and the dangers of failing to follow these as much as is practically possible.  From a claims defensibility aspect, if the industry is aware of the issue of climbers climbing unclipped, it is imperative that they take action to prevent this issue and any risk of accidents.


Joby Maw Davis, Technical Advisor  advises the following:-

It’s a fundamental fact that we all should be aware of, that if climbers are able to easily get onto the climbing surface and its holds without disruption, there is a higher likelihood of them being able to climb without attaching to the auto belay connector.  We have a duty of care two-fold here. Firstly, to ensure that the belay gates are sufficiently large to reduce this variable as much as is possible. Secondly, for the route setters – to ensure that starting holds are as much as practically possible, masked behind the gates.  There should also be consideration of how the setting is quality checked in your facility too.

If there is a very busy period of use on your auto belays, when multiple lines are in use at the same time – consideration should be given to how this is monitored to manage unattached climbers where belay gates are all down.”

Credit: Joby Maw Davis, Technical Advisor 


Staff training is key.  The use of auto belays and dealing with issues that may arise whilst using them is not covered in detail in any NGB Climbing award. Therefore, it falls to the walls to ensure that they are acting responsibily in seeking to stamp out any instances of unclipped climbing, and if this is seen, that immediate action is taken to avoid an accident.  As well as operations and rescue plans, floor walking is a key control measure when identifying undesirable practices. It is recommended that staff observe users making repeated use of the units and actively engage customers with a friendly reminder of the consequences of a lapse in attention. The more likely profile of users getting into difficulty is the more experienced user category, often climbing alone.  All staff, especially those on reception, have a key role to play in reminding users to clip in.




Auto Belay Safety Guidelines – ABC