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The impact and implications of route setting in commercial climbing centres.

Route setting lies at the heart of every commercial climbing centre and the issue of insurance is about as complex as the art of setting itself.

From an insurance point of view, there are a number of key areas of considerations for both setters and commercial walls and I hope to outline some of these here.

One of the main issues is that route setters and walls across the country work with differing roles and responsibilities and often these are tricky to define. Is the setter working under their own direction with their own tools, risk assessments and working practices, with their own insurance, or are they working under the direction of the centre, with loaned tools and equipment to working practices defined by the centre; or are they, more likely, a hybrid mix of these two scenarios?

Following on from this, setters may be employed full time by a centre, in house; they may invoice the centre for their work but be a bona fide sub contractor or they may invoice the centre for their work but be defined as a labour only sub contractor. A centre would have the same responsibilities to a labour only sub contractor as they would to a PAYE employee in terms of training and the provision of PPE.

In addition to the above, there is very little in the way of industry training and assessment currently, for a job that involves plant, tools and working at height, which leaves all parties exposed.

The insurance implications.

EXAMPLE 1 –An Employers’ Liability Claim

A route setter is working as a labour only sub contractor, they don’t have their own insurance and they use the centres equipment to set under the direction of the wall. They fall from a height and break their back. They are unable to work and put an employers’ liability claim in against the centre. The centre doesn’t have any recorded checks on the equipment and there are no records to show the setter had received any formal training.

EXAMPLE 2 – A Public Liability Claim

A customer is bouldering and finds themselves stuck in a corner with no clear down climb. They are forced to jump, causing a sprain. They have a physical job and are unable to work. They put in a public liability claim against the centre alleging that the injury wouldn’t have happened if there had been a way to descend the wall.

EXAMPLE 3 – A Material Damage Loss & Business Interruption Claim

A route setter uses their own faulty equipment causing a fire and subsequent damage to the climbing wall structure. Additionally, the wall is unable to open for a period of time for repairs causing both material damage losses as well as business interruption losses for the period of the closure.

What’s the solution?

Centres need to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all parties. It is important to view route setting as a construction trade and take into account the level of exposure to all parties. If setters are employees on a labour only sub contractor basis, then you need to advise your insurers of this fact and provide them with your annual bill for their services so that they can be included and rated under your employers’ liability section. If they are bona fide sub contractors then again you need to advise your insurers, along with the amount you are expecting to pay in the insurance year so they can rate accordingly under your public liability insurance.

The ultimate goal from an insurance perspective would be to ensure that all UK route setters are qualified, assessed and insured in their own right, as you would expect for a carpenter or builder.

If you are in any doubt then contact your insurance broker.