How Dangerous Are Zip Line Rides?
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    How Dangerous Are Zip Line Rides?

    Many people might assume that a personal injury attorney would be naturally adverse to zip lining because he must hear about horrible accidents and all of the particular details regarding the injuries. Well, that certainly is true to a degree. I do often hear about injuries caused by zip lines, but I also hear about injuries caused by car and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall injuries at stores and restaurants, swimming pool injuries, injuries due to defective products and medical malpractice injuries. If I were to avoid all of the activities from which I hear about injuries I would never ride my motorcycle, go to the doctor or visit a store. So, why the emphasis on zip lines? Basically, because federal safety standards do not exist and many states are unwilling or unable to draft and enforce safety standards and perform inspections, your safety is dependent upon what a profit-seeking operation considers “safe enough” to make money.

    Zip lines, zip line tours, and aerial adventures are marketed in a variety of fashions. Some advertisements may emphasize the sense of adventure and the thrill that riding a zip line can provide. Other television ads or marketing brochures may emphasize the perspective and view one will have when zooming through the tree canopy. Still others may resent the zip line as a way to enjoy some summer fun without the sun, sand, and heat. However, regardless of the positive features and exciting opportunities that are emphasized in marketing materials, people expect to find a safe, well-run, and well-maintained facility where they and their loved ones are not exposed to unnecessary and preventable risks.

    Are Zip Line Rides Regulated?

    In a majority of states, commercial zip lines face little or no regulations. But, in at least 12 states there is some form of regulation regarding the installation and operation of zip lines. These states include:

    • California – In October 2014 state regulators began enforcing rules and regulations. Zip lines are overseen by The California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
    • Colorado – Standards in Colorado recognize the ASTM F24 or ACCT Standards depending on the particular program focus.
    • Illinois – In 2013 the Illinois Department of Labor adopted amendments to zip lining safety regulations found in 56 Ill. Adm. Code 6000. The new standards require assessments of system safety and construction.
    • Massachusetts – Massachusetts zip line standards are enforced by the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety.
    • Michigan – An April 2015 zip lining accident at a camp has called the efficacy of Michigan’s regulations into question. In general, zip lines and the staff that operate them are subject to rules and regulations.
    • New York – For applicable zip lines,
    • Pennsylvania – Zip lines in Pennsylvania are regulated under Amusement Ride Inspection Act & Regulations. 7 Pennsylvania Code – Title 7 – Chapter 139. ACCT standards are in effect and all inspections must be performed by a state-licensed or NAARSO certified inspector.
    • Texas – Texas has set forth insurance minimums, warning requirements, and inspection requirements for commercial zip lines. Non-commercial zip lines are not regulated.
    • Virginia – Inspections in Virginia includes licensing and insurance requirements along with an inspection by a NAARSO certified inspector.
    • West Virginia – When its standards were passed in 2012, many described the West Virginia regulations as leading the way on zip line safety. Regulations can be found in Amusement Rides and Amusement Attractions Safety Act 21-10 of the West Virginia Code

    While safety regulations for zip lines have improved in recent years, there is still work to be done. Strengthen standards in more states should help families avoid dangerous facilities and preventable injuries. If you have been seriously injured or if a loved one has been killed in a zip lining accident in Pennsylvania call personal injury attorneys The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.

    Dangerous Regardless of the Operation’s Size

    Consider some of the following zip line accidents illustrating the general insufficient safety precautions implemented by homemade, small operations and even major zip line operators:

    • Grafton Zip Line Tree Collision (2013) – An Illinois woman participated in a zip line event at a large Grafton zip line company. At the end of the line the brake system failed to slow her as she approached the platform. She ended up striking a tree to which the landing platform was attached suffering numerous fractures and requiring surgery in which a plate and screws were implemented. Had the operator provided an emergency braking system, designed the platform to provide a larger landing area, and installed adequate padding on tree the participant’s injuries could have been prevented or reduced.

    • Easton Zip Line Tree Collapse (2014) – A Massachusetts boy was killed when an anchor tree collapsed crushing him. Even previously secured anchors can become unsafe following heavy rainfalls.

    • Zip Line Accident Causes Laceration, Amputation (2012) – A Georgia woman fell from a zip line when the line snapped. She suffered injuries including severe lacerations which developed secondary infections. She ended up having multiple limbs amputated.

    • Hugh Jackman’s Zip Line Flub (2011) – Attempting to make a splashy entrance on Oprah, and despite being guided by numerous professionals and safety experts, Jackman’s zip line failed to stop causing him to slam into the stage lighting and rigging striking his head. Jackman, and all who witnessed the stunt gone awry, were visibly shaken. After the initial shock had worn off, Jackman immediately sought on-site medical treatment. An emergency brake may have prevented this injury.

    • Maui Zip Line Fall (2014) – A zip line company employee plummeted more than 150 feet to her death after falling from a zip line. It is unclear how the zip line became detached, but backup systems could have prevented the fall.
    It is clear that injury can occur at zip line operations of all sizes. If people can be injured at major zipline operations like in Grafton and Maui, I would never even consider a small mom and pop operation. Further the best professional stunt people, as provided by Oprah, cannot ensure a safe experience should give you further pause before you consider a zip line excursion.

    Arizona Boy Scout Dies in Zip Line Accident

    A tragedy involving n Arizona Boy Scout troop illustrates the importance of the use of proper equipment and safety gear when riding a zip line. According to news reports, nine scouts and two adults were participating in a scouting activity at a private home on a Saturday morning. The adults apparently set up the zip line and placed the zip line handlebar mechanism on, near, or in a location where the scouts could access it. The adults then went into the house to locate the zip line braking mechanism so that it could be installed.

    Several of the children apparently decided that they either couldn’t wait for the installation to be completed or they were unaware that the installation zip line had not been completed. The first boy to slide down the zip line was unable to stop because the braking system was not installed. The boy crashed into a tree suffering severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The boy was transported to the hospital where he died due to his injuries.

    Here, several things went wrong. First, the zip line and its equipment should be watched at all times when it is in use, including during the installation. Second, best practices would include making the zip line inaccessible or otherwise unable to be used until all aspects are installed.

    12-year-old Summer Camper Dies after Zip Line Equipment Failure

    In another tragic accident, a 12-year-old girl was killed while zip lining at a North Carolina summer camp. The young girl was strapped into a zipline harness by a worker trained in zip line usage and safety. The girl traveled about 200 feet on the zip line when, according to the president of the camp, the line snapped sending the girl plummeting to the ground where she fell into a ravine about 20 feet below. While life-saving treatment was administered in an attempt to save the girl, the efforts proved unsuccessful and the young girl passed away shortly after the accident.

    Though North Carolina law does not require it, the camp president stated that the zip lines had been inspected in the spring before the camp opened. The co-CEO of the company who provides training and inspection services for the camp seemed perplexed by how the incident could have occurred. He said he had not seen a similar break in his 36-year career, but explained that the break in the rope appeared to have been caused by melting – probably as a result of friction and possibly from another rope. While he could not explain the “cut” in the line that appeared to be caused by partial melting he did promise that the company would, “re-create the conditions and try to come to a theory or final decision.”

    If You Were Hurt on a Zip Line

    If the horrific injuries suffered by zip line riders weren’t enough, many operations attempt to blame the victim for their own injuries. This is especially insulting considering the frequent industry assurances that zip lines are perfectly safe and that the companies blame people when they are injured and at their most vulnerable.
    I hope this piece provides valuable insight into why I will never ride on a zip line. While I hope you heed my advice and never suffer a serious injury due to zip lining, human judgment is fallible.

    If you do suffer an injury, an experienced and aggressive personal injury lawyer can assist you in holding the company responsible for its negligence, failure to provide warnings or failure to supervise. If you have been involved in a zip line accident, contact personal injury lawyers The Reiff Law Firm today for your free consultation.

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