This article is not intended to instruct, but to draw attention to some of the precautions legally required or advised when considering a charity abseil event.
Setup and staff
Be aware that different abseil situations require different levels of expertise in operation, i.e. a 10m abseil from a single pitch crag is very different to a 100m free abseil. In all circumstances both operators (those who set it up) and staff (those who run it on the day) should be suitably competent.
Although an SPA (lowest level nationally recognised climbing qualification) holder may be competent to actually run the event, they are not always sufficiently experienced to evaluate the suitablility and needs of the site. It may be best to use a recognised technical expert for this, a holder of the MIA (Mountain Instructors Award), MIC (Mountain Instructors Certificate) or BMG (British Mountain Guide).
As well as the technical aspects do not overlook group management aspects. Consider the possible impact on members of the public not actually involved in the event (e.g. walkers, climbers, residents) as well as participants when not actually abseiling. A falling karabiner landing on a passerby is a far more likely scenario than the abseil rope snapping.
Both operators and staff should be covered by adequate personal accident and public liability insurance. When using man made sites it may be necessary to check the buildings insurance.
In normal circumstances a technical expert (MIA, MIC, BMG) should be sufficient to assess the strength and suitability of building elements for the abseil setup. Occasionally a building inspector is required to examine the suitability of the building from an engineering point of view, and the buildings owner will provide this contact. If a building has been utilised in the past there is normally no problem.
Charitable abseils, where all the money paid by the participant goes to a charity are normally exempt from licensing. However when the staff are earning profit from the event it is viewed as a commercial activity and a licence may be required if the participants are under 18 years of age and the abseil is outdoors. If unsure contact the Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority.
Mountain Training Association
Association of Mountaineering Instructors
British Mountain Guides
Climbing Walls Finder
Advententure Activities Licensing Authority
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