The Standards You Should Know


When was the last time you read a standard that applies to your work? When was the last time you were involved in the development of a standard? If you work within the challenge course and aerial adventure industry, and your answer is either “never” or “a long time ago,” you’re missing the boat. Industry standards exist to promote the safety of both workers and the public. Whether they be standards for design, inspection, maintenance, training, or operation, these standards exist for people like you, and they’re written by people like you—yes, YOU.

The pool of industry professionals who can contribute to standards development includes vendors, owners, operators, course managers, in-house inspection and maintenance personnel, guides, and facilitators, whether from small seasonal operations or large year-round companies. The list can also include specialized third-party service providers, such as engineers, arborists, etc. 

In practice, though, members of our industry tend to leave the reading, interpreting, and developing of standards to “the professionals,” a group many consider to only include vendors who provide professional services to clients as well as those who are actively involved with industry associations—mainly, larger operators like the Boy Scouts of America and a few multi-park operators. 


Lack of understanding. The first result of this collective tendency is fewer professionals in the field who know what applicable standards actually say. Many people rely on verbal interpretations of standards that they receive during operations-based training or as a result of an inspection. This is problematic, because some of these interpretations can be misconstrued, or just plain wrong. Relying solely upon verbal interpretations is similar to what happens during a game of telephone—the message changes the further it gets from the source. 

By not referencing and understanding the standards for yourself, you’re probably also missing information that you need. Discussion about standards often happens when there’s a reason to be concerned, which means that you’re putting yourself in a position to be reactive rather than proactive.

Lack of balance. The second result of leaving interacting with standards solely to “the professionals,” primarily vendors, is that the development of these standards suffers due to a lack of balance. Standards that comprehensively address an industry must receive input from professionals in all aspects of that field. 

In ASTM International, for example, there needs to be input from a healthy combination of the following roles: user, general interest, consumer, and producer. In ACCT, these stakeholder groups are identified as vendor, user, and general interest.

Each group needs to represent its own perspective and practical needs, but not necessarily weigh in on all aspects of the standard. Designers may not have the experience base to weigh in on a training standard. A manager’s background may not lend itself to writing a technical standard on foundations and anchoring. Balance and multiple viewpoints are critical to developing the best standard possible.

Professionals working in this industry need to be literate regarding standards that are applicable to their job and jurisdiction, and should also contribute to the development of these standards. Contributing can mean everything from sitting on a committee to simply making time to read and comment on draft standards as they’re released. 

Unfortunately, professional development and education specifically on standards within our field is lacking. Many people don’t know where to start. 


This series of articles aims to help you get oriented and engaged with standards so that you can be an informed, educated professional in the field. We start here, in part one, with basic information on the predominant standards that apply to your work—what they are, the organizations involved, and how to access the standards. (Pro tip: many standards are made accessible via membership in the publishing organization—check the websites, as this is often the least expensive option.) 

Next, the series will delve into how to participate in the standards development process, including how to review draft standards and tips on writing effective comments. By the end of the series, you’ll understand how to become a more engaged member of our professional community.

Let’s begin!

Fast Facts: The Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) was founded in 1993 and published its first standards in 1994. ACCT has been an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards Developer (ASD) since 2006. It published its first American National Standard (ANS) in 2016.

Standards Development Process

Draft ACCT standards are primarily developed outside of ANSI procedures by the Technical Information, Research, and Education (TIRE) Committee, then submitted to an ANSI Consensus Group (CG) for review, processed through the ANSI Public Comment System (at which point all interested parties can provide feedback). Following the processing of all comments according to ACCT’s ANSI procedures, any standards revisions are approved for publication by the board of directors acting as secretariat. Standards development work by ACCT committees is typically not open to observers without invitation or approval. The Consensus Group meetings are open to observe, but active participation is limited to CG members and invited guests.

Note: An ACCT task force is currently drafting revisions to the standards development process. Read more about the proposed revisions in “Charting a New Course for Standards” (p. 10). Watch for news, and consider how any changes might impact you.

ACCT publishes the following 

relevant industry standards:

Current Standard: ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Challenge Courses and Canopy/Zip Line Tours Standards

Publication Date: July 2019

Version: 10th version overall; 2nd ANS version.

Scope of Chapter 1 – Design, Performance, and Inspection Standards: The ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Standards: Design, Performance, and Inspection Standards establish requirements for the design, performance, and inspection of elements and associated equipment for challenge courses, aerial adventure/trekking parks, canopy tours, and zip line tours.

Scope of Chapter 2 – Operations Standards: The ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Standards: Operation Standards establish minimum operational procedures and staff competencies for challenge courses, aerial adventure/trekking parks, canopy tours, and zip line tours.

Scope of Chapter 3 – Training Standards: The ANSI/ACCT 03-2019 Standards: Training Standards establish requirements intended to enable course owner/operators to design and deliver or purchase training curricula that meet the minimum industry standards and provide necessary content for staff.

Appendices: A. Discussion of Conventional Challenge Course Design; B. Ground Surface Considerations; C. Zip Line Brake Systems; D. Certification and People with Disabilities; E. The Essential Functions of a Certified Challenge Course Practitioner.

Additional Info & Programs: Qualified Challenge Course Professional Guidelines; Practitioner Certification Standard (a non-ANSI standard); Inspector Certification program; Vendor Accreditation program; Operation Accreditation program. 

Additional Publications, Advisories, White Papers of Note: Life Safety Equipment Systems Used for Operating a Course (01/31/2020); Revision of F2959-16 Standard Practice for Aerial Adventure Courses ASTM Ballot F24 (04/2018); Technical Information, Research, and Education (TIRE) Committee Advisory for Zip Line Brake Systems (06/2022); Important Advisory Notice for Zip Line Landing Area Platforms (08/2015); Important ACCT Advisory for Dual Leg Lanyards (08/11/2015); Removable Pole Steps (01/2009); Cable Grabs (01/2009); Various Notices on Automatic Dead Ends (08/07/2007), (04/01/2021), (04/08/2021), (04/19/2021).

Requests for information and standards interpretation: 303-827-2432 (ACCT Office)

Fast Facts: ASTM International (ASTM), formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, was founded in 1898. It has Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with more than 120 standards development bodies worldwide. ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices was established in 1978, and the F2959 Special Requirements for Aerial Adventure Courses was first published in 2012. 

Standards Development Process

While ASTM is an ANSI Accredited Standards Developer, the standards related to our industry do not go through the formal ANSI process. Instead, the development of the standards follows a mirrored process based around task groups dedicated to each standard, with proposed standards and changes regularly balloted and voted upon by the entire membership of Committee F24. F24 standards are under continuous development; any updates to individual standards are typically published once annually. Participation in the standards development process is transparent and open to anyone interested, regardless of membership status. ASTM has tens of thousands of members and writes standards for almost everything imaginable. Committee F24 addresses Amusement Rides and Devices and is the primary working committee/body of standards for our industry.

ASTM publishes the following 

relevant industry standards:

Current Standard: F2959-23a Standard Practice for Aerial Adventure Courses

Publication Date: 2023 

Scope: This practice establishes criteria for the design, manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, auditing, and major modification of aerial adventure courses. NOTE: This standard directly references other ASTM core standards for Amusement Rides and Devices and must be used in conjunction with them.

Key core standards include
the following:

Current Standard: F2291-23b Standard Practice for Design of Amusement Rides and Devices (ARDs)

Publication Date: 2023

Scope: This practice establishes criteria for the design of amusement rides, devices and major modifications to amusement rides and devices manufactured after the effective date of publication except as noted in 1.2 of Scope.

Current Standard: F1193-23 Standard Practice for Quality, Manufacture, and Construction of ARDs 

Publication Date: 2023

Scope: This practice establishes the minimum requirements for a quality assurance program and the manufacturing of amusement rides and devices (including major modifications).

Current Standard: F770-23 Standard Practice for Ownership, Operation, Maintenance, and Inspection of ARDs

Publication Date: 2023

Scope: The purpose of this practice is to delineate information and to establish procedures for the operation, maintenance, inspection, and training for amusement rides and devices.

Current Standard: F2974-22 Standard Practice for Auditing Amusement Rides and Devices

Publication Date: 2022

Scope: The purpose of this practice is to provide the minimum auditing requirements for audits of amusement rides and devices.

Requests for information on Committee F24 and interpretation of its related standards: [email protected]  

Fast Facts: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was founded in 1947, after a 1946 London congress on the post-war era future of standardization. Its first adventure tourism standard was published in 2014. 

Standards Development Process: Like a symphony, it takes a lot of people working together to develop a standard. ISO’s role is similar to that of a conductor, while the orchestra is made up of independent technical experts nominated by ISO’s 171 members, each representing a member country. The technical experts begin the process with the development of a draft that meets a market need within a specific area. This is then shared for commenting and further discussion. The voting process is the key to consensus. If that’s achieved, then the draft is on its way to becoming an ISO standard. If agreement isn’t reached, then the draft will be modified further and voted on again. From first proposal to final publication, developing a standard usually takes about three years.

ISO publishes the following relevant industry standards:

Current Standard: ISO 21101:2014 Adventure Tourism –  Safety Management Systems – A Practical Guide for SMEs

Publication Date: 2014

Scope: This outlines the requirements of a safety management system for adventure tourism activity providers. A provider can use ISO 21101:2014 for the following: to enhance safety performance; to meet expectations for participant and staff safety; to demonstrate safe practice; to support compliance with applicable legal requirements. It can be used by all types and sizes of providers, operating in different geographic, cultural, and social environments.

Current Standard: ISO 21102:2020 Adventure Tourism – Leaders – Personal Competence

Publication Date: 2020

Scope: This document establishes the requirements and recommendations of competencies and the related expected results of competencies for adventure tourism activity leaders common to any adventure tourism activity, which can affect the quality and safety of the services provided. It can be used by all types and sizes of providers operating in different geographic, cultural, and social environments.

Current Standard: ISO 21103:2014 Adventure Tourism – Information for Participants

Publication Date: 2014

Scope: This specifies minimum requirements for information to be provided to participants before, during, and after adventure tourism activities. It can be used by all types and sizes of providers operating in different geographic, cultural, and social environments.

Requests for information and standards interpretation: [email protected]

Fast Facts: The Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA) was established in 2003, and was accredited by ANSI in 2005. It published its first American National Standard in 2014.

Standards Development Process

In 2014 ANSI/PRCA 1.0-.3-2014 received designation as an American National Safety Standard for Challenge Courses (including aerial adventure parks, zip line tours, canopy tours, and ropes challenge courses). As a safety standard, it covers both participants and employees. Processing of revisions is done in accordance with PRCA’s ANSI procedures. ANSI requires establishment of procedures for timely, documented consensus action on any requests for change, and no portion of the standard can be excluded from the revision process. In the event that no revisions are issued for a period of five years, action to reaffirm or withdraw the standard is taken in accordance with PRCA’s procedures as set forth in the ANSI Essential Requirements.

PRCA publishes the following 

relevant industry standards:

Current Standard: ANSI/PRCA 1.0-.3 2014 Ropes Challenge Course Installation, Operation & Training Standard

Publication Date: 2014

Scope: This standard establishes safety requirements for the design, manufacture, performance, construction, inspection, maintenance, removal from service, qualification, instruction, training, use and operation of components, sub-systems, systems and courses utilized by the ropes challenge course industry as indicated in Section IV Application.

Additional Publications, Advisories, White Papers of Note: Strandvice Application Advisory (2000); Strandvice Application Advisory (06/2007); Ground Anchor Advisory (08/2007); Hubbell Power Systems Safety Advisory (03/2021)

Requests for information and standards interpretation: [email protected]


Learn More

For more information about these and other relevant standards writing bodies, including the Climbing Wall Association (CWA) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), check out the expanded version of this article online at

The industry and its standards are strongest when professionals working in the industry are educated on the predominant standards—what they are and how they are developed—applicable to their job and jurisdiction.  


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