API Summer 2021

EASY DONNING Harness manufacturers and operators alike aim to make guest gear-up a breeze. BY PETER OLIVER

Getting park guests snugly and safely into harnesses is one of the most crit- ical jobs for guides. A loose strap, an unfastened buckle, a small body in a large harness—if something is amiss in the donning process, all sorts of mayhem and possible tragedy are in the offing. It is often impractical for a guide to do all the fit adjustments for each guest, especially during Covid times, so operators have developed procedures to make do-it-yourself fitting easier for guests. And harness manufacturers have been making the fitting process easier, too. In recent years, manufacturers have in- corporated “anything that makes it easi- er for people not familiar with harnesses to get [the harness] on and adjust it,” says Kong USA technical sales manager Kenny Brodin. Igor Stomp, owner of harness maker Eyolf, notes that factors besides Covid have been driving the contactless donning trend, including sensitivity toward religiously mandated practices and dress codes and concerns about intersexual touching.

leg or right arm go? How do you tighten or loosen a strap, and exactly how snug- ly should the harness fit? The guide is there, of course, to answer questions like these, and harness makers are taking steps to make the donning process more intuitive and self-accomplishing. Still, Brodin points out that “nothing is going to replace a well-trained guide in making sure noth- ing gets overlooked.” Outdoor Ventures and Ropes Park Equipment CEO Bahman Azarm ob- serves that in a typical group scenario, some guests get the donning process right away and some don’t. Those who do can often assist those having a harder time. Instituting a kind of buddy system, based on family units, is one way to accomplish this guest-helping- guest approach. Group facilitation. Challenge Works director of training Rohan Shahani says he has been advocating and teaching no-contact and low-contact interaction between guides and guests since 2016. Shahani adapts the donning process according to the group or client’s needs, but always maintains the core princi- ples of maximizing communication and minimizing physical contact. “At some tours it’s best to break it down into chunks, one step at a time, with a guide demonstrating each step and the guests following along,” says Shahani. For this, he suggests taking the ap- proach of explain, demonstrate, guide, and enable. “First, tell the guest what

the harness is for, how it will feel, and what the finished product will look like. Then demonstrate the process. “With others, I can demonstrate the whole process and then walk around and provide tips as they don their har- nesses,” he says. “Sometimes, someone needs a little extra help, and this is where I’ll ‘guide’ them a bit—entering their ‘bubble’ and showing them how to adjust one buckle or strap. This is usually enough for them to figure out the remainder of the process.” Shahani says no matter what type of harness an operation uses, it’s import- ant for guides to develop an effective script or language to coach people into them—and practice it regularly.

(For more on the value of facilitation, see “Facilitate the Adventure,” p. 62)


While the pandemic may have height- ened interest in contactless processes and might inform development of new designs in the future, harness manu- facturers have long been incorporating features that promote contactless guide-guest interaction. Primary considerations. Azarm says that two principal considerations have factored preeminently in the design of harnesses specifically for parks (as opposed to harnesses for sport or industrial use): first, efficiency, to speed up operations and improve through- put, and second, user-friendliness, i.e.,


Harnesses that are easier to don are beneficial in several ways, including making it easier for guides to explain the process from a distance. For the inexpe- rienced guest, a harness—particularly the full-body harnesses manufacturers make for aerial adventure park use—can be a puzzling web of straps and tighten- ing hardware. Which way faces forward, and which way backward? Which way up, which way down? Where does the left

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