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Bill Requiring Zipline Inspections Put On Hold

Posted February 20, 2012, 12:53 PM HST Updated February 21, 2012, 10:49 AM HST
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A bill that would establish greater state oversight on zipline operations – including requiring inspections at least once a year – appears to have been put on hold by the state Legislature.

The bill, and a similar one in the state House, was introduced in response to the September death of a zipline worker on the Big Island.

Ted Callaway, 36, of Lahaina, Maui, was riding on a 2,300-foot-long zipline over Honolii Stream Sept. 21 when one of the towers supporting the line collapsed. Callaway, who fell 200 feet to his death, and another worker were in the process of tightening the line that had been in operation for several weeks but had prompted customer complaints of being too slow.

The other worker, 35-year-old Curtis Wright of Miamisburg, Ohio, was standing on the tower when it collapsed. He was severely injured.

The zipline in Paukaa that was involved was one of several operated by Hilo-based KapohoKine Adventures, which is not currently offering those tours.

The measure, Senate Bill 2433, would establish a permitting process for zipline operators that in addition to the inspection would also require detailed record-keeping. It would also set the amount of liability insurance the operator must maintain.

Three Senate committees heard testimony on the bill on Tuesday. Their report issued Thursday noted that zipline operators have been working with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on finding ways to resolve concerns about the tours, but have not reached an agreement.

The state labor department, which is currently investigating the September incident and which would be responsible for issuing the permits, is opposed to the bill. In written testimony submitted to the Senate, labor Director Dwight Takamine urged lawmakers to study the matter further.

Takamine said his department felt some of the bill’s provisions, including setting an inspection fee of $100, are not practical.

“The inspection, permit and and certification fees in the measure are far too low to cover the costs of developing the expertise to regulate ziplines and canopy tours in the manner prescribed in the bill,” Takamine said.

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Under the bill, the inspections would be done either by the state or by a private firm certified by the state according to standards set by the Association for Challenge Course Technology.

While the Hawaii County Building Department inspects zipline towers to determine whether they in keeping with approved plans, neither it nor the state currently examine the operations for consistency with national standards.

Jeff Baldwin, of Piiholo Ranch Zipline on Maui, testified in written comments that while he supported the bill, he didn’t think the $100 charge for an inspection was realistic.

Baldwin said he typically pays $5,000 for an inspection that can take “days” to complete by professional inspectors. He said one of the reasons they cost so much is because of logistical challenges – he said inspectors must work at heights of up to 600 feet on Piiholo Ranch’s ziplines.

Baldwin said professional inspections are also important because of the “tremendous liability” involved.

“This will typically be the first place that will be challenged in the event of any injury,” he said. “If there is an effort to make these inspections cheap, or more available then good practice advices (sic), then the state will certainly be at fault.”

The three Senate committees that heard the bill amended it by inserting an effective date of July 1, 2050 to “ensure further discussion,” the committees’ report said.

The committees also referred the bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which did not schedule a hearing for the measure before the Legislature’s deadline for committee referrals.

A similar bill in the state House was deferred following committee hearings on Feb. 7.

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