Optimize Preparation to Maximize Your Annual Inspection

Your annual facility inspection is much more than just ticking a box on your seasonal checklist. Your inspection report is a roadmap that helps to identify hazards, highlight issues, and foresee short and long-term maintenance, equipment replacement, and renovations, whether you operate a challenge course, zip lines, or an aerial park. 

More than that, Your annual facility inspection is one of the most critical aspects of your risk management plan. It is, in effect, a legal document that provides independent validation into the overall state of your facility and its compliance with prevailing standards. 

The best part about your annual inspection is that the more you prepare for it, the more value you get from it. This article breaks down the importance of inspections and gives you our professional insight into maximizing the value of your annual facility inspection. 

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Why You Should Care

To start with, your annual facility inspection is mandated by industry standards and required by your insurer. Your inspection is also a valuable tool for understanding the state of your facility and planning short and long-term maintenance and care. Your inspection report is a vital document and among the first to be requested following an incident. In the case of Challenge Towers inspectors, many have backgrounds in operations and share their insight about operability, efficiency, and continuity.

While facility inspections are mandated throughout the industry, not all inspections are equal. Different companies can take different approaches, and the standards themselves leave some room for interpretation. That’s why it’s essential to select a vendor who shares your goals and can help you collect the best information on your facility. A couple of questions to ask yourself about your inspection vendor:

  • Does my vendor have experience inspecting facilities similar to mine?
  • Does my vendor understand how to fix the problems they identify?
  • Is my vendor well versed in current technology, systems, and devices used at my facility?
  • Does my vendor have a broad viewpoint on the industry that informs their analysis of my facility?

When To Contract Your Inspection

We recommend that you schedule your inspection not less than 90-120 days before starting major operations. This is especially true in the lead-up to summer, when most camps and commercial operators begin their season. Challenge Towers inspectors prefer to do their job when your facility is closed. They often work with tools and access portions of the facility not otherwise accessible to guests. Your vendor may want to develop a plan for selectively closing parts of the facility if a full facility closure is impossible. 

A growing number of operators are scheduling their annual inspection for Fall instead of Spring. Moving to a Fall inspection offers greater scheduling flexibility, faster report delivery, and a longer lead time to take care of maintenance and remediation ahead of your busy season. Many large volume operators complete a second inspection post-season to identify notable wear and tear on equipment and facilities. We also recommend post-season inspections for operators who have had a major event or component failure or those planning significant upgrades or modifications. 

How to Prepare for Your Facility Inspection

Remember the 6 Ps when thinking about your next facility inspection; proper prior planning prevents poor performance. The more time you spend preparing for your annual inspection, the more benefit you will get from your report. Here is our list of the top 10 things you should do to get the most out of your annual inspection.

  • Review your last inspection report and ensure you have taken care of any noted requirements.
  • Conduct routine maintenance to address frayed rope ends, replace minor rusted components, and clean and stain wood surfaces.
  • Ensure all ground anchors are clear of overgrowth and accessible to the inspector. 
  • Cut back tree limbs, grass, and weeds and lay fresh mulch in and around the facility.
  • Pre-check torque specs on guy, tensioning, and critical cable clamps.
  • Clean and organize all equipment and share a current and complete equipment inventory ahead of your scheduled inspection. 
  • Have documentation organized and available for review for all equipment that requires ongoing certification.
  • On the day of your inspection, have all elements set up for the inspector, including removable foot cables, auto belays, or other items used seasonally or intermittently. 
  • Assign a contact who knows the facility and operational practices and can be consulted as needed (ideally on-site) on the inspection day. 
  • Provide one or more staff who can assist the inspector (as needed) and help organize and restock equipment.


I’m ready to get my report

You scheduled your inspection weeks or maybe even months ahead of time. The day of your inspection has come and gone, and you are ready to get your report. How long should you expect to wait? How quickly your report is returned depends on the time of year, the current volume of inspections, the size and complexity of your facility, and the volume of problems that your inspector uncovers. At Challenge Towers, we indicate that the typical report is delivered within 30-days. In reality, most reports are delivered within several weeks, and in certain circumstances, it can take up to 60-days to provide a report. So why does it take so long?

Each report serves as a legal document central to your risk management plan and is used by insurance and other stakeholders to verify the status of your facility. Once your inspector submits their findings, Challenge Towers conducts an internal review that ensures the information in your report is complete, accurate, and concise. During the busy time of year, inspection volume increases the return time on reports (an excellent reason to consider a Fall inspection). Regardless of how long it takes to receive your report, critical failures or other significant issues identified by your inspector will be communicated to you on the day of your inspection. 

What to do when you receive your report

Once your report is delivered (and before you provide a copy to your insurer), review all findings and follow up with your vendor to ask clarifying questions. Once you understand the findings of your report, share a copy with your insurer. Make a plan to address any noted requirements, jump on scheduling maintenance through your vendor, and order replacement equipment. Don’t wait as these services can be hard to schedule, and common equipment is often back-ordered in the weeks leading to the start of the season. 

From time to time, an operator disagrees with a finding in their report. That’s okay, and asking questions about your annual inspection report is integral to your risk assessment and management. If you disagree with a finding in your report, we encourage you to set up a time and discuss it with your vendor. Many vendors, including Challenge Towers, have a process for evaluating such requests and amending reports as necessary.