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How standards help keep Sydney Harbour Bridge climbers safe
share: Updated:2023-06-22 00:00:00

Over the past 24 years, over 4million people from 140 nations have done something the Sydney Harbour Bridge was never originally designed for – they’ve climbed to the very top.BridgeClimb Sydney is an iconic Australian tourist attraction, taking people to the Summit of the world’s longest steel arch Bridge, peaking at 134 metres above the Sydney Harbour.

As with any outdoor attraction, there are potential risks to manage. From rapidly changing weather to individual climbers’ health emergencies, the BridgeClimb team is trained to look after everyone's safety as a priority.

However, the Bridge itself is a heritage masterpiece, allowing only very limited alterations to support its role as a climbing attraction – so more support was needed to ensure BridgeClimb could have the impeccable safety record they have maintained for over 20 years.

How Australian Standards support safety

BridgeClimb has maintained an impressive safety record with a relentless focus on safety – and the support of Australian Standards, international standards, and other publications.

Standards are integrated into a large span of BridgeClimb’s operations, ranging from the maintenance of the infrastructure they depend on, the design and use of safety protocols, and the selection of equipment they use.

By integrating standards with their operations, BridgeClimb is able to draw upon extensive knowledge and expertise about how to operate safely and effectively.

A key example of this is how BridgeClimb leverages AS/NZS 1891.1:2020 - Personal equipment for work at height to help ensure the integrity of the safety harnesses that their customers wear every day in their ascent to the top of the Bridge. This standard covers important issues, from the design and manufacture of the harness, through to testing and labelling.

However, standards are only as good as their application. With the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the process of undergoing its biggest update in more than 90 years, BridgeClimb has also upgraded how it accesses and uses standards.

Maintaining safety during updates and expansions

Since 2020, work has been underway on removing the four movable gantries that allow maintenance crews access to various parts of the Bridge. They are being replaced by two larger, much more flexible units that will allow maintenance crews even better access to the Bridge.

This is the largest change to the Bridge since it was built and poses both challenges and opportunities for BridgeClimb.

In addition to adapting its climbing routes and procedures to account for the major change to Bridge infrastructure, BridgeClimb has also expanded its operations, opening new climbing routes (including on the Bridge’s northern span) and increasing capacity, with the goal of delivering a better climbing experience.

Again, BridgeClimb will look to their library of standards for guidance. Referencing AS ISO 55001:2014, an asset management standard, for example, will assist in meeting requirements for different elements of the project, including the placement of sensors on key pieces of infrastructure to manage their upkeep and maintenance through the data they provide.

Simplifying standards access

To ensure BridgeClimb is able to maintain its enviable safety record during this period of transformation, they are looking to more efficient ways of managing and accessing the standards they need.

Simon Pitkethley, BridgeClimb’s Head of Safety, Sustainability and Critical Infrastructure says the move to a digital standards subscription has helped them respond to their developing needs.

“We were able to bring all of our standards together in one spot,” he says.

“Previously, we’ve had an ad hoc approach with printed standards and electronic versions. This makes it a lot simpler.”

As BridgeClimb looks to the future, standards will continue to play a crucial role in providing an exciting, but most importantly, safe experience for their customers.

BridgeClimb Sydney CEO Deb Zimmer says they are focused on continuing to innovate to bring new experiences to those who visit.

“When we plan these new experiences, we want to make sure that ultimately all of our guests are incredibly safe as they're enjoying it,” she says.

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