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Hawaii incident raises questions on zip line safety

Hawaii incident raises questions on zip line safety

November 23, 2011

As zip lines grow to become an increasing presence in the adventure industry – particularly in visitor destinations like Hawaii – questions are being raised about the safety of the activity which allows participants to zip from one location to another along a cable and pulley system.

In September, Teddy Callaway, a 36-year old Maui resident was killed and a 35-year-old resident of Ohio was critically injured when a 30-foot zip line tower on Hawaii Island collapsed without warning. Callaway, was on the zip line at Honolii Mountain Outpost, which ran 2,300 feet above Honolii Stream. The collapse sent him 200 feet onto a rocky area below where his body was recovered. The other employee was on the tower at the time of the incident and suffered internal injuries and fractures.

Both men involved in the accident were employees of Experiential Resource Incorporated (ERI), a Lahaina- based company which works in the construction of adventure courses, including zip lines.

A workplace death investigation is currently being conducted by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health division and just last week (October 25, 2011) the company suspended bookings of all zip line tours until an evaluation of the soil composition and structural integrity of its zip lines is completed.

Currently, there are at least 15 commercial zip line companies that operate in Hawaii and the incident has brought to light safety issues in the industry. Currently, Hawaii has no workplace safety regulations in place for zip lines. The state has in place standards for amusement rides, but these rules to not apply to zip line operations since they do not have any mechanical or electrical components.

While serious injuries and deaths are rare, broken fingers, ankles, bruises and even whiplash are common when participants land at the platform too quickly. For those planning to zip line, some safety precautions to keep yourself and your family safe are:

  • Pay close attention to the information provided in the briefing or orientation, which should include a review of the staff’s training, company’s safety measures, as well as safety information and tips on what to and not to do while on the zip line.
  • Wear closed toed shoes – most, if not all, companies will require this of their guests.
  • Keep long hair pulled back and avoid wearing loose clothing which can get stuck in pulleys or lines.

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