Sailing through forests at lightning speed is gaining popularity with thrill-seekers as zip lining becomes more and more common in Tennessee, and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development aims to ensure the experience is safe for riders.
In October 2012 the TN Department of Labor established policies for zip line installation and operation, consistent with ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) standards to inspect zip lines beginning in January 2013. All commercial zip line operators are required to inform the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development when they set up their businesses so they can be inspected and be granted a permit issued by the department.
“We inspect zip lines a minimum of once a year, the same frequency as we inspect amusement rides. We make sure operators have a certificate of insurance and all the paperwork to back up their daily inspections – showing that the operators inspected harnesses and platforms and other apparatus before riders used the equipment. They must also show they have met the requirement to have an annual ACCT-certified person inspect and re-certify their whole zip line system, making sure it follows industry standards,” said Lee Bentley, Amusement Device inspector manager. Before coming to the department, Mr. Bentley was the technical supervisor at Universal Studios in Orlando for 17 years where he set up Jurassic Park. He also worked for Dollywood in Sevierville for several years.
Mr. Bentley said if a zip line is found to be unsafe, it is red-tagged the same as any amusement ride, meaning it cannot be operated and the tag cannot be removed until he or someone from his division has re-inspected it. He helps the zip line businesses he inspects get up to speed and meet specifications before they re-open. He said sometimes they do not know about ACCT, so he educates them on how that association can guide them in making their operations safe.
ACCT has a book that deals with specifics such as how to attach to a tree, how to put on a cable, how to position a platform onto a tree, and how to make sure anchors are able to support weight loads. ACCT will even provide recommended vendors to set up the zip line operation.
Because of the increasing prevalence of commercial zip lines, the department has recently hired a second person to help inspect these amusement devices. Those interested in starting a zip line company or would like to have their existing zip line business inspected should call the Regulations and Compliance Division of the TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development at (615)741-2858.