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SAM Magazine—Lakewood, Colo., Oct. 22, 2012—The ASTM F24 Amusement Rides and Devices Committee approved the first version of the Aerial Adventure Course Standard, which includes zip lines, ropes courses, challenge courses, aerial trekking courses, and canopy tours. This new standard establishes criteria for the design, manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, auditing, and major modification of aerial adventure courses after the effective date of publication of the document, which is expected to take place by mid-December.

Committee members approved the standard at a meeting held Oct. 18-20, after more than two years of work. The standard now proceeds to ASTM headquarters where it will be reviewed and editorially prepared for publication.

The F24 Committee will continue deliberations to update the standard; some ancillary material was set aside while producing the initial standard. It is also foreseen that proposed changes will be submitted by users and authorities as the new standard is implemented. A revised standard will probably be produced in a short time period.

“Stay tuned,” said Sid Roslund, NSAA director of technical services.


Benefits of the F24 Zipline Standard

Sure, Michael. I think the case is overwhelming that the F24 zipline standards will lead to innovation and improved revenue, and I can answer you at multiple levels.


1. Your healthy skepticism seems to be premised on the assumption that F24 standards do not create or propose a "common standard or platform for innovation to occur." I have been an F24 member for 20 years, and that is simply not the case. F24 standards – including the zipline standard – are heavily laden with performance standards. One of the many reasons why the F24 committee is disinclined to adopt prescriptive standards is precisely because we do not want to stunt innovation from designers and operators. You and I (and most of the standards-drafting bodies) agree that many standards create a "common standard or platform," and I assure you that this ethos is alive and well on F24.

2. You also asked for an example in which any regulation "has ever led to innovation." I will just focus on F24 standards. Because of the nature of my law practice, I have personally witnessed – and in some cases participated in – hundreds and hundreds of innovations driven by ASTM standards. Here is a smattering of examples ranging from the trivial to the momentous: (a) the F24 operations standard obligates operators to develop operating "fact sheets," but does not say a hoot about what is supposed to be in them. Unless you engage in wholesale plagiarism, it is not possible to comply without innovating. (b) the F24 design standard allows variation for "service proven" designs. A design qualifies as service proven if it has been in operation for at least 5 years without a "significant design related failure ... that has not been mitigated." (c) the F24 injury classification standard calls for recording certain minimal data, and operators routinely innovate documentation protocols over and above that minimum. (d) the F24 restraint standard specifies the number, redundancy, and types of restraints based upon the forces of a particular ride. During the past 8 years since the design standard was 1st released, manufacturers have innovated several, compliant restraint systems that never previously existed. (e) the F24 acceleration standard specifies G-force limits for a comfortable ride, and designers routinely innovate an infinite variety of track and vehicle designs to comply with those acceleration standards.


You seem to agree that F24 standards will improve safety. I don't believe it can be seriously disputed that better safety results in increased patronage, which means improved revenue. In the course of my legal obligations, I have seen lots of data to bear out that point. I have even seen studies demonstrating that amusement rides are (by far) the most popular commercial, recreational activity in the USA, and that this is directly related to the relative safety of the activity.


Michael, although you did not ask, you seem to question the ability of standards – including F24 standards – to thwart criminal liability or lower insurance premiums. The really simple answer is: I have personally talked to a number of prosecutors and convinced them not to prosecute my client in part because we complied with the F24 standards. I have personally talked to many specialty underwriters and have been assured that the existence of voluntary consensus standards lowers the perceived risk and the correspondingly-charged premium. Of course, to the extent that F24 standards result in better safety, that means a cleaner loss run and lower premiums.

*** Michael, feel free to call me if you still have questions. For my part, I am more than curious why you criticize the F24 zipline standards because of a "failure to define a zip line as a structure."
– WP

Scratching my head...


Can you please explain your thoughts on assertion 5 of why ASTM F24 Standards are desirable? Specifically, on your comment:

"The F24 zipline standards should also lead to a variety of desirable consequences: – Innovation – Decreased criminal liability – Lower insurance premiums – Better safety – Improved revenue."

How will increased regulation lead to a) innovation and b) improved revenue? While I can certainly guess where your going with the other two, I am not certain F24 will either decrease criminal liability or lower insurance premiums.

Can you provide me an example where regulation has ever led to innovation (and not innovation devised to escape or shortcut regulation) and improved revenue? Unlike some industries where regulation created a common standard or platform for innovation to occur, F24 does not propose a platform or necessarily clarify many of the challenges imposed by the failure to define a zip line as a structure. Irregardless of the intention of the program, protecting the common good should be uniform. Based on user cycles, I would purport that many of the newer zip lines used for commercial purposes an primarily for recreation have fewer accidents than therapeutic and educational programs.

Why the ASTM Zipline Standard Is Good News


You have raised some interesting issues, and I believe that I can help clarify the implications of the new ASTM F24 zipline standards.


First, let's start with a good baseline of where things stand right now. Internationally, ziplines operated for amusement purposes are generally recognized as amusement rides. You see this in the European, Ontario, and Australian standards.

In the USA, there are 38 states with at least some ski industry presence. A significant minority of states already have – and have asserted – jurisdiction over ziplines as regulated amusement rides. In this category, I would place Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. There are many more states that intend to regulate ziplines as amusement rides, but have refrained from aggressively doing so pending the development of amusement ride-specific standards. Ohio is a good example of these states. It is also a truism that there are some states in limbo or that are awaiting a definitive pronouncement (e.g., a ruling from the regulatory agency or a legal opinion from the state Attorney General) whether ziplines qualify as "mechanical" or "mechanized" as required by their various amusement ride statutes.


There are a number of issues complicating the regulation of ziplines:

1. Ziplines are used for a multitude of purposes. These various uses include:
– Amusement applications (i.e., "for the primary purpose of amusement or entertainment")
– Educational curriculum
– Physical fitness purposes
– Organized, competitive events
– Therapeutic programs
– Training purposes
– Team and confidence building
– Playground equipment
Threading the needle for these various purposes can be challenging.

2. There is wide variation as to what constitutes an "amusement ride." They range from very passive rides where the patron is highly restrained (e.g., roller coasters, Tilt-a-Whirls) to very active rides in which the patron controls direction, speed, or body position (e.g., water slides, wave pools, climbing walls, inflatables).

3. Although ACCT has nearly 20 years developing standards for ziplines, and is even pursuing ANSI voluntary consensus standards, ACCT does not want to occupy amusement applications. When asked by F24 3 years ago about developing standards for the amusement industry, ACCT demurred because of lack of expertise.

4. Regardless of the particular purpose for which ziplines are used, there is a high degree of overlap in good practice from one use to the next. Thus, the F24 zipline standard is heavily informed by ACCT standards.


With that background, I now address why the F24 zipline standard was both needed and desirable.

1. The F24 zipline standard will go a long way toward clarifying the ambiguous and confusing status of ziplines operated for amusement purposes. Like Occam's Razor, the F24 standards carve off ambiguity, confusion, and redundancy to produce the simplest model for protecting public safety.

2. By virtue of ASTM International's scope, the F24 zipline standard will promote consistency and cost-effectiveness throughout the industry.

3. The lack of uniformity posed a real risk of greater danger to public safety.

4. Without the F24 zipline standards and the corresponding increase in predictability, there was a real risk of proliferating liability and litigation.

5. The F24 zipline standards should also lead to a variety of desirable consequences:
– Innovation
– Decreased criminal liability
– Lower insurance premiums
– Better safety
– Improved revenue

6. The F24 zipline standards also point toward excluding ziplines operated for amusement purposes from federal regulation under the Consumer Product Safety Act. This is because the CPSA excludes regulation of "permanent" amusement rides.

Not only does the F24 zipline standard produce desirable results, but the feared "parade of horribles" are negligible, if not non-existent.

1. The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 has already declared congressional intent that ziplines will likely be approved, just as the Secretary of Agriculture has permitted ziplines (as well as other types of amusement rides) at various facilities for years previously. Undoubtedly, that is why a representative of the National Forest Service shepherded nearly every meeting of the F24 zipline task group. The statute does not prohibit "amusement rides" per se, but only "amusement parks," and there is a world of difference between those terms. In fact, the Secretary of Agriculture has the discretion to permit "a collection of features ... and other recreational activities." The 121 ski areas in 12 states covered by the statute just have to provide "recreational uses," broadly defined as
– contributing to "health and well-being"
– "great exercise, experience nature and take in the incredible landscapes"
– "environmental and educational benefits"
– "appreciate the beauty while being physically active"
There are many "active" amusement rides capable of producing these sorts of "recreational uses."

2. The F24 zipline standard does not change in any way whether a regulatory agency has jurisdiction over ski area attractions. That depends entirely on pre-existing law.

3. It is a truism that voluntary consensus standards such as the F24 zipline standard are invariably more concise than industry-generated standards, such as the ACCT guidelines. Nevertheless, that does not mean that the F24 standards are "hollow empty standards." It is generally recognized that consensus standards have inherent advantages, such as
– due process procedures
– credibility
– greater depth and perspective
– more likely to be adopted by reference in controlling law

4. Just like any other voluntary consensus process, F24 welcomes input from all concerned parties. By all means, please get involved!

R. Wayne Pierce
Adventure Lawyer
133 Defense Highway, Suite 106
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-7015
Work: 410-573-9955

Really - Is this good news.

The Ski Area Enhancement Act - prevents Amusement Rides at Ski Areas, and specifically states that Zip Lines and Ropes Courses are not Amusement Rides. Opps!

Sid, why would you support a standard that goes against the federal bill intended to help summer operations for our industry. This seems like it might prevent our resort from moving forward with our plans if regulated by the state Amusement Dept.

With other options for standards already in place - this seems like a possible step backward for what we fought for as an industry (having written letters to support that bill). I'll not only stay tuned - it seems like I might need to actually get involved, the article above says that "some ancillary material was set aside", the draft standard I last saw was incomplete with many sections left as "saved for future use" or some similar wording. Hollow empty standards are not helpful, the holes left by this 'ancillary material" could actually be damaging to not only the ski industry and our efforts to grow but to others using ropes courses and zip lines, that could damage our operations.

Probably, no coincidence that I get this notice on the same day that i get e-mailed that ACCT has a new 8th edition challenge course and zip line standard. Seems more like a turf war than a well intentioned effort to complete a standard. While I've yet to see the new ACCT standards, the ASTM draft submitted for comment was about 6 or 7 pages with lots of empty fields.

Stay Tuned Indeed - for the rest of the standard, for the potential fallout from an incomplete document being pushed upon us, in the face of federal legislation that specifically states that ropes courses and zip lines are not amusements.

Perhaps the NSSA does not want summer ops on federal lands.