Safety officials speak after Maui zipline death

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Safety officials attending a national conference in Honolulu spoke Wednesday after a deadly workplace accident on Maui earlier this month.

Experts, including a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are attending a biennial safety and health conference at the Hawaii Convention Center this week, sponsored by the Hawaii chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Workplace safety is a pertinent issue in Hawaii in light of the death of Patricia Rabellizsa at Piiholo Ranch Zipline in Makawao. The 29-year-old was working on the platform launch on May 1 when she fell 150 feet to her death. Officials say she was not wearing any type of safety harness.

Current Hawaii law places responsibility on industry employers and their insurers. Safety officials said that without legislation to regulate ziplines, they rely on the businesses to adopt and follow their own safety standards.

“Every worker has the right to a safe workplace,” said David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary of labor. “What OSHA wants to do is to make sure that every employer provides that safe workplace. … We don’t have standards for every hazard. We expect employers to provide safe workplaces and that’s going to be true for every situation, including ziplines. If a worker’s at risk, then you can be protected.”

Part of facilitating that safe environment includes proper training, said state labor department director Dwight Yonamine, “so you can minimize the potential for any worker to get injured or to actually get killed because of the circumstances they face.”

An official with Piiholo Ranch said the company does not want to comment until the investigation into Rabellizsa’s death is completed.

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