Zip lines have become increasingly popularized in recent years. Once they were nearly exclusively operated by companies that exclusively handled zip line operations, but now they are available to ride at fairs, carnivals, amusement park and even at some tourist destinations. The extremely low cost of a zip-line kit – available online for a few hundred dollars or less – makes them an attractive way to expand a fair or park’s catalog of attractions. However regulatory standards and oversight have not been able to keep pace with their explosion of popularity.
Safety Standards on Zip Lines
Because there is not a unified federal safety guidelines, the quality of zip line equipment, logistical planning and safety precautions vary widely between operators. Some areas where standards can widely vary include:
- Course design – Courses must be designed so that riders cannot strike stationary objects during their decent. Further even safely designed courses can become dangerous when staff in insufficiently trained or there is insufficient supervision.
- Trolley standards – The trolley is the object that slides down the zip line. Desgings and standards vary widely. Some trolleys may have brakes, but many do not.
- Full-body harness requirements – Without a doubt, a full-body harness is the safest type of harness. However, any harness is unsafe if it is not rated for the weight involved or if it is improperly secured.
- Presence of a guide-wire system – A guide wire system can greatly improve safety by controlling where and how riders may ride the zip line. Further an always connected guide-wire system can prevent deaths from falling off a platform if the participant were to slip.
- Standards for embarking/disembarking – Getting on and off of the zipline is often one of the most dangerous parts of the zip line experience.
- Tower construction requirements – Faulty construction, construction on unstable ground or failure to adequately anchor the tower can result in tower collapse. Unfortunately and tragically collapses often result in death.
A 2012 investigation by NBC 4 Washington further publicized this serious problem. At one facitiliy in West Virginia, a full body harness was utilized along with dual line clips, a harness and a request from the operator for patron to leave all clipping and unclipping to an employee. In contrast, at a facility in Virginia, guests were left unhooked on the top of platforms without any harness to prevent them from falling. Other courses’ safety standards fell somewhere in-between these two extremes. However it is clear that standards vary widely and some facilities fail to take adequate precautions to protect your health and safety.
Types of Zip Line Accident Injuries
When a zip line failure occurs, catastrophic injuries or death are unfortunately the norm. However the types of injuries are often dependent on the particular failure or accident that occurred. For instance, when a zip line platform is improperly anchored and collapses, death is often the result due to falling from the extreme heights involved. In circumstances where the height is insufficient to cause death, fractures and broken bones to the lower extremities and spinal injuries are common. When a course is improperly designed or supervised, zip liners can collide with other riders or stationary objects such as trees. In cases like these, injuries can range from death to traumatic brain injuries though in some cases individuals may be lucky enough to escape with severe bruising.
Zip Line Accidents and Victim Blaming
Most people are familiar with the boiler-plate Waiver of Claims & Liability most companies will require a potential participant to sign. These companies often invoke these agreements as a reason why you do not have a claim for your injuries. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer can often devise a legal strategy that may be able to hold the company accountable for their negligence or failure to provide sufficient oversight.