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Safety Alert: Just How Safe Are Those Zip Lines?

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2016 | Safety

Just as I recently blogged on whether or not inflatable bounce houses are safe, there are also new studies that find zipline-related injuries are rapidly increasing. Here in northwest Florida, we have several different places where we can go to zipline and as the weather gets warmer and we have more tourists that come to our area, they will not only flock to our beautiful beaches, but also our recreational attractions which includes ziplines. As you drive up and down Highway 98, it is obvious that the popularity of ziplining has skyrocketed rapidly in recent years. In fact, the number of commercial ziplines in the U.S. rose from 10 in 2001 to more than 200 in 2012, in addition to more than 13,000 amateur ziplines which can be found in outdoor education programs, camps, and backyards. The increase in popularity has also increased the number of injuries related to ziplining. Consequently, it is not surprising that a recent study conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that an estimated 16,850 non-fatal zipline-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1997 through 2012. The study, published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, found that falls accounted for more than three-quarters (77 percent) of zipline-related injuries followed by collisions (13 percent), including those with tree and other anchor structures

Almost 70 percent of the injuries occurred during the last four years of the study period, which indicates the growing problem. In 2012, there were more than 3,600 people treated in U.S. emergency departments for zipline-related injuries, nearly 10 per day. More than 90 percent of the injuries occurred April through October, with the number of injuries peaking in July..

The most frequent types of injuries that occurred as a result of ziplining included broken bones (46 percent), bruises (15.2 percent), strains/sprains (15.1 percent), and concussions/closed head injuries (7 percent). Eleven percent of patients were admitted to the hospital for their zipline-related injury.

Children younger than 10 years of age accounted for almost half (45 percent) of the zipline-related injuries while youth, ages 10-19, accounted for an additional 33 percent of injured patients.

Many injuries reported in the study were associated with ziplines located at sport and recreation facilities, such as outdoor education centers, challenge courses, canopy tours, summer camps and parks. Although these ziplines are often open for use by the public, they are not regulated in many states and may not meet industry standards. These self-regulated zipline operations represent an unaddressed potential hazard to the public.

If you plan to go ziplining, researchers recommend the following tips to prevent injuries:

· Seek out an organization that has well-trained staff and that can show you that their ziplines meet industry safety standards.

· Follow all posted rules and instructions from staff.

· Always wear proper safety equipment, such as a harness, helmet and gloves.

· Do not use homemade or backyard ziplines.

This is the first study to examine non-fatal zipline-related injuries, including those occurring on homemade ziplines, commercial operations, challenge courses, and canopy tours, using a nationally representative database. Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What is Florida law pertaining to ziplines? Florida Statute 616.242(2) delegates the authority for enforcement of safety of ziplines. Safety inspection is state law. Rides inspected are inspected every time they are set up. Permanent parks and go-cart tracks are inspected annually and then six months later for recertification. Inspections are done for any mobile rides and fixed sites without full-time safety inspectors. The State of Florida does not inspect permanent facilities that employ 1000 or more full time employees and maintain permanent NAARSO certified safety inspectors. Additionally, any inspection of a zip line in the State of Florida shall be done by a qualified person capable of climbing on and through the zip line as they inspect the entire structure(s), cable tension, terminations, deck supports, fasteners, staircases, etc. Having a state inspection is a duty to demonstrate to the state that the owner is in compliance with the law and that is it. The owner must hire a 3rd party inspector to perform a hands on inspection of its zip line in the state of Florida.





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