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Zip-Lines Aren't Regulated In Kentucky. State Legislator Proposes Changing That

Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons

There are no state safety regulations for Kentucky’s zip-line industry, despite a growing number of zip-line related injuries in recent years.

The increasingly popular activity involves suspending a rider from a device that allows them to slide long distances down a cable — sometimes at rapid speeds, high above the ground.

State Rep. Jeff Donohue, a Louisville Democrat, has a proposed a bill that would require Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture to regulate the industry.

“I do not want it to be a scenario where we have a fatality or something happening because we have loose and lax regulations,” Donohue said.

The Department of Agriculture conducts inspections on amusement park attractions such as mobile carnivals, go-kart tracks and water parks.

Donohue’s bill doesn’t include specific regulations, but directs the department to set up procedures for inspections, operator training, safety standards and insurance requirements.

A study conducted by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine showed that there were nearly 17,000 zip-line-related injuries between 1997 and 2012 in the U.S. The study also showed that the injuries occurred more frequently as the sport grew became more popular — between 2009 and 2012, zip-line-related injuries increased by nearly 56 percent.

Mike Barker, vice president of the Professional Ropes Course Association, said that regulation is imminent.

“The original standards addressed challenge courses — the types you’d see at camps and different events like that,” Barker said.

“And with the growth of the commercial operations, the zip-lines and aerial adventure parks, the industry hasn’t kept up with it.”

Barker said safety problems are often due to amateurs building courses with materials purchased online, and that independent inspections would make the industry safer.

Nathan Garrett, the course manager at the zip-line course Mammoth Cave Adventures, said his facility is independently inspected every month and conducts daily inspections in-house.

“Throughout Kentucky there’s no regulation, so we knew it was a matter of time before it would happen,” Garrett said.

“So we’re just staying with it, that way we’re certified if there is regulation in Kentucky.”

According to a study conducted by the State Auditor of Hawaii, 12 states have laws regulating zip-line safety. North Carolina's Department of Labor is considering establishing safety standards after a 12-year-old died at a zip-line course this summer.

(Image via Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons)

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.