Does Your State Have a Tramway Safety Board?

As we saw last week in West Virginia, it usually doesn’t take long after a lift-related accident for someone to bring up the issue of regulation.  Operation of ski lifts and tramways in the United States follows the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) B77.1 Standard for Passenger Ropeways.  ANSI is a non-profit organization that oversees the creation of standards for everything from nut and bolt shapes to paper sizes and computer programming language.  States adopt ANSI standards which become the laws of the land.  The idea is whether you ride a chairlift in Alaska or gondola in Florida, everything from the lift’s line speed to the signage in the load area is spelled out by the same document.  You can download your very own copy here for $175.  Update 9/11/2017: There’s a new standard available here, now $200.

tramwayboardmap
By my count, 21 states have some sort of tramway oversight agency as shown in green.

The ANSI standard is updated about every five years and some states are faster than others at adopting the latest version.  Each state also decides whether to back the B77 standard with licensing and inspections. Without question, the most robust oversight agency in the country is the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, which oversees Colorado’s 275 aerial lifts and countless surface tows.  Colorado is the only state to go so far as to conduct unannounced inspections on every lift every year.  CPTSB has three full-time staff members and eight contract inspectors.  Only a handful of states directly employ lift inspector(s.) Some states hire contract inspectors like Colorado does but many simply require an annual fee and inspection by somebody certified, usually an insurance inspector.  The bottom of this post has a table of each state’s requirements as best I could find.

Just because a state doesn’t license tramways or lacks a safety board doesn’t mean that its lifts are unsafe or go un-inspected.  Insurance companies generally send inspectors once a year and so does the Forest Service to ski areas in National Forests.  There are only so many qualified inspectors to go around so it might be the same person working for the state one week also does insurance inspections another week.  The reality is that even the more frequent inspections by outsiders pale in comparison to the amount of time that ski areas’ own lift mechanics and electricians spend making sure lifts are safe.  These dedicated men and women know the machines they take care of better than anyone and are on the front lines of safety every day, whether or not an inspector is coming.

15 thoughts on “Does Your State Have a Tramway Safety Board?

  1. Jonathan Deitch March 1, 2016 / 10:35 pm

    Georgia actually has TWO lifts (down from 3 when Sky Valley closed) …

    1 is the Stone Mountain Arial Tramway (1996 Von Roll)
    2 is the Six Flags Sky Buckets (Von Roll type 101, dates to the origination of the park in 1968)

    As both of these are amusement attractions, that’s probably who inspects them.

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  2. Dan Marshall March 2, 2016 / 9:41 am

    In Pennsylvania, lift inspections fall under the Department of Labor and Industry’s Elevator Division. They perform a yearly inspection that must be passed in order to obtain a Certificate of Operation for each lift. They also perform an inspection/investigation once a lift related incident occurs.

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    • Peter Landsman March 2, 2016 / 10:13 am

      Thanks Dan, it makes sense PA is in line with its Northeastern neighbors. I’ve updated the map and table. Does the state actually send its own inspectors?

      Like

      • Dan Marshall March 5, 2016 / 10:43 am

        Yes, they do send their own inspectors. They require at least 2 inspectors on site during inspections.

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  3. Artie Speicher October 13, 2016 / 5:07 am

    Maryland department of labor and industry elevator and amusement ride division does the inspections on the only ski area in the state. They follow the ANSI B77 and some of their own state amusement ride regulations. I have worked in 5 different resorts in 5 different states in my career, and Maryland by far has the most intense inspection of any of the 5 states. 2 or 3 inspectors spend an entire day on each and every lift. Upon completion of the inspection and the correction of any items put on a punch list a certificate is issued for operation. They inspect the lifts seasonally, so the lift that also runs in the summer will get inspected twice a year. They are very complete in their inspections. It is always good to have outside eyes to review the equipment. We also have a yearly inspection by a representative of our insurance carrier, who is almost always a certified engineer, with chair lift experience.

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    • Peter Landsman October 13, 2016 / 7:51 am

      That’s good to hear, Artie. I updated the table to include Maryland.

      Like

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