This morning, while vacationing with my family in Tennessee, a 35yr old employee at Wahoo Zipline fell 50'.
What the *#@*#)! is happening to our industry in the United States? It seems every few weeks someone falls somewhere… employee headers off a platform, girl drops 100' from a Giant Swing she wasn't even clipped into, etc.
An industry that once boasted safety records “safer than selling insurance” is now a regular news item.
I'm tired of the ever-increasing body count.
[end of rant]
This has been roiling in the depths of the “Dave Brain” for some time, and is very timely in light of recent incidents in the ropes challenge course industry.
Two fatalities involving new hires on zipline tours in little more than a year, participants hurt or killed while under the watch of “more mature staff” who were “fully trained”, “recently certified”, etc.
Where were the experienced staff, the trainers, the ones with more than an initial training and a handful of experience hours under their belts? Where were the “Old Dogs?”
According to ANSI/PRCA 1.2 Operational Standards for Ropes Challenge Courses, this requirement falls on the shoulders of the owner/operator of the course. Any time “Authorized Person” level staff are performing work, a “Competent Person” is required to be on location (H.2.8 Supervision.)
Bottom line? The vertical environment we work in is both exciting and deadly. As course owners and operators, we can never forget that. When I put a new batch of instructors in the field, dropping their names in the schedule, I am potentially putting them in harm's way. Sure, they've been through my exhaustive training, completed all required skills assessments, but that still doesn't change the fact that they are woefully inexperienced. For the first several weeks, new hires are never scheduled without an experienced instructor to ensure actions are consistent with training and procedures, answer questions, model behavior, etc.
The trending growth of ziplines and aerial adventure parks concerns me, not from the standpoint of industry exposure. I think it's great that more and more people each year get to stretch themselves through these experiences. What I really hope is that those behind the operations of these courses have truly counted the cost. Paying for an outside training company to administer an annual training/ recert and thinking that's enough to ensure staff and guest safety is incredibly shortsighted.
I know firsthand of a program that had the annual refreshers, course and equipment inspections by 3rd party vendors. What they lacked was the presence of the “Old Dogs.” Little to no oversight of newly trained guides, bad habits crept in… they were an incident waiting to happen, and it did eventually happen. Something that would've easily been caught and mitigated was missed, resulting in a participant falling 30' from their climbing wall.
Planning, design & construction are the easy steps… daily operations are what really sets a program apart from the rest. Staffing is the last place you want to skimp, for the safety of your employees and guests.
Be safe, all!
It’s a bizarre title, but it doesn’t compare to the tumult I’m experiencing right now.
I was going to post last month re: the June 11th zipline death of a 12yr old girl at a summer camp, but I held off. I wondered, “it’s relevant to ropes courses & risk management, but do I have to post every injury or death?”
The absurdity of my thought today – “I’ve got a backlog of deaths to post.”
Ok, here's a rant that's been percolating for a while. Adventure programming is awesome! As ziplines and adventure parks continue to gain in popularity, the allure attracts developers in venues both large and small. Am I saying this is a bad idea? Absolutely not. However, as one who lives & breathes adventure programming, we can't forget a very important point:
Done wrong, people are hurt or killed utilizing these activities!
Honestly, I believe construction of these projects is the easy part. It's a willingness to invest in the following that tell me how long you'll last (or if I'll read about you in the news!) A couple points to consider:
I understand this post is pretty short – I could spend a day just talking about gear selection. Bottom line – gravity always works, folks! By adding high adventure activities to your facility's lineup, be prepared to do it right. Over the long haul, you'll stand out from the crowd as a program to be respected and emulated, serving many happy participants for years to come.
I had a “problem” in need of a solution. On our Zipline, sometimes if participants leaned back, their trolley would hop over the serving sleeve and get stuck. No biggie, but it was unnerving to some… ready, set, g… oh wait, now try it. 🙂
After chewing on a few ideas, it hit me – hockey pucks. High density rubber, made to take a beating, impervious to the elements, and cheap. I'll share it with you: