Fatal Accidents Raise Questions about Zip Line Safety and Regulations

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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.

While the vast majority of zipline operators strive to provide a safe environment for clients to enjoy the experience in of zip lining, mistakes and regulator oversights can occur. In some cases, errors and failures to maintain best practices may go unnoticed due to the lack of consequences. However, in other cases, a zip line accident results in life-altering or fatal injury. If the accident was preventable since it was the result of a failure to address a known risk or due to negligence or recklessness, the experienced personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you.

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.

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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.”

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Are Zip Lines 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) 246-9000.

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