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Feds cite Maui zip line operator in employee death

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State lawmakers are contemplating tighter regulations of the zip-line industry after the second death of a zip-line worker in the last three years. A man soars high over forested terrain at Pii­holo Ranch’s Zipline eco-adventure ride.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the owners and operators of the Pi’iholo Ranch Zip-Line Course on Maui for the death of zip line employee Patricia Rabellizsa.

“This young woman’s tragic death could have been prevented had her employers valued her safety as much as they valued customer fun,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Atha in a news release.

OSHA’s investigation found that proper safety measures would have prevented Rabellizsa’s death.

The operator’s policy made it optional for employees to wear restraining lanyards connected to their harnesses, which OSHA said directly led to Rabellizsa’s 125-foot fall into a ravine on May 1, during her third day on the job.

OSHA fined owner Jeff Baldwin of Baldwin Brothers LLC, and site operator Altres Inc., $7,000 each. OSHA said it issued fines to both entities because Altres, a local staffing agency, has a unique amount of control over the day-to-day operations at the facility, OSHA said in a statement.

The amounts are the maximum allowed for the death.

OSHA said the accident happened when Rabellizsa and another worker were bringing in the last two zip line customers. Rabellizsa tried to bring one of them in when the zip line customers’ momentum pulled both workers off the platform above a ravine. 

Rabellizsa held on to the customer for several minutes before losing her grip and falling to her death, OSHA said.

The other worker, who was wearing a safety harness, survived.

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