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. Dive into part one where we cover basic information on the predominant standards that apply to your work—what they are, the organizations involved, and how to access the standards. Coming soon in the Spring/Summer issue of Adventure Park Insider. Subscribe now to receive your copy.


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