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Un-Zipped: Bill Requires Zipline Study Instead of Regulation

Posted March 16, 2012, 05:36 PM HST
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File photo.

Zipline legislation was amended yesterday, calling for a study, instead of establishing standards and regulations for tour operators.

The bill was gutted and replaced with insurance language, requiring tour operators to file a copy of their insurance with the commissioner.

Committee member, Angus McKelvey of West Maui said the amended version is a stop-gap solution until a sunrise study is done by the Office of the State Auditor.

He called the changes a “temporary win-win”—allowing legitimate operators to stay in business, and deterring unlicensed, unregulated, and unknown operators from breaking the law.

“If an entity has liability insurance for their business, its a good indicator that they are complying. If a claim is made, they would have to report it to the commissioner,” said Rep. McKelvey.

Rep. McKelvey said the intent is to still draft the bill, and use the language of the bill to frame the sunrise study.

He said the sunrise study would allow the auditor to make recommendations next session. That way, regulations could be enacted “in a sensible way, without drive existing, legitimate companies out of business.”

The proposed legislation comes on the heels of a zipline accident that claimed the life of a Lahaina man and critically injured a co-worker last year on the Big Island.

Both men were employed by a company that builds and maintains zipline courses and were testing a course in Hilo when the accident occurred.

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The House version of the bill (HB2060) failed to crossover to the Senate.  The Senate version of the bill (SB2433) was introduced by West Maui Senator Roz Baker, and was amended yesterday by the same House committee that deferred the House version bill.

Since ziplines are a fairly new industry, the question also surfaced of who would be qualified to inspect the tours.

Currently, elevator inspectors are the ones who perform inspections of amusement rides; but state labor officials say they already struggle with maintaining the training and certification standards of elevator inspectors for that purpose.

“In order to do a credible job the inspectors and manager would need to develop expertise to both undertake inspections and certify QCCP inspectors, adding an additional burden to the Boiler and Elevator Inspection Branch,” said Dwight Y. Takamine, Director pf the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in written testimony.

Takamine said the inspection, permit 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.  “Most of these operations are located in remote areas of the Neighbor Islands, which would require the department to pay for airfare, car rental, per diem, etc.,” he said.

Previous versions of the bill would have required operators to obtain annual inspections and permits from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to ensure the safety and security of participants.

The amended version of the bill states that no operator may knowingly permit the operation of a zipline or canopy tour without a certificate of insurance.  An operator shall also conduct inspections at least annually and as otherwise may be required by the insurance provider.

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