ANSI, ASTM, PRCA, ACCT & NSAA a mess of acronyms that are fighting each other, taking your industry down and wasting money.Posted: June 11, 2014
How much money could have been put into promoting the industry,educating the members and creating great opportunities? Millions I bet.
The PRCA, (Professional Ropes Course Association) recently announced that they had received approval from ANSI (American National Standards Institute) for its ropes or challenge course standards. The ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology) has appealed the issuance of the approval. (See ANSI/PRCA American National Standard).Wasting more time and money, in my opinion.
In the meantime, the NSAA (National Ski Area Association) received ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) approval for their standards. See ASTM Committee Approves Standard For Aerial Adventure Courses
I have no horses in this race; I have nothing to gain and more to lose with these comments. However, someone has to put it out there again, because the amount of money being wasted is ridiculous. So here goes…..again. (For a prior commentary about this feud see Stop Feuding, I doubt, move forward anyway; I think you can
What’s it all mean?
First the “standards” granting organizations.
ANSI “allows” organizations that meet its requirements to become standards granting organizations. One such organization is the ASTM. However, just because ASTM is granted the “opportunity” to create standards under the ANSI banner it does not mean that ANSI standards are better, more important or more controlling than ASTM.
ACCT was started 19 years ago to write standards. However, in my opinion, it was more of a good buddy club and the creation of the standards did not follow any known or legally acceptable way of creating them. PRCA was started in 2003 because ACCT would not let them be the “whatever name” to do something with ropes courses or something. Honestly, I’m not 100% clear on this, and I don’t really care.
NSAA is 52 years old and has been working with ANSI and ASTM for decades. The standards for operating ski lifts are ANSI standards and the standards for the rest of the ski industry such as skis, bindings, etc., are ASTM standards. NSAA has one employee who knows more about ANSI and ASTM than I would ever want to know, and consequently, they are fast efficient and done right.
Still with me or have all the acronyms done you in.
Right now, there are two organizations that have created standards for the ropes’ course industry, PRCA and NSAAthat follow the procedures and practice’s generally accepted in court for proof of standards by an organization. NSAA has opted to write its standards through the ASTM and the PRCA through ANSI.
ACCT is left out of the mix right now, so that organization is fighting PRCA’s ANSI standards. However, what I find comical, and indicative of the reasons for much of the wasted money in the industry, the ACCT has ignored the NSAA. (PRCA also for that matter.)
This leads me to believe that the appeal of the PRCA’s ANSI standards has nothing to do with the standards, just with the PRCA. (This is the third appeal of the PRCA’s ANSI standards; the ACCT lost the first two.)
By that I mean there is more bad blood here than in a blood bank with no power for a month.
So Legally what does that Mean?
Standards are the lowest acceptable level of doing something, which is presented in court to prove someone either met the standard or did not meet the standard of care. The standard of care is the measurement against which the jury determines whether you had a duty and then breached that duty to someone.
If you own a ropes course and someone is injured on the ropes course, the plaintiff now has several different ways to prove that you were negligent (breached the standard of care). Meaning your ropes course was not built correctly, or you operated the course incorrectly.)
First, there are the ACCT standards; however, those can easily be ignored at this point because they have not been approved by either the ANSI or the ASTM. The ACCT standards are getting better, I’ve been told, but basically, they were created in a way that creates credibility issues. That does not mean that they can’t be a way to prove you are negligent.
So now the plaintiff can argue that you failed to meet the PRCA or NSAA standards. If there is a conflict between the two, then the plaintiff has found the stick to beat more money out of you and your insurance company. (And the last thing this industry needs is a way to give more money away. (See: Payouts in Outdoor Recreation
Legal Advice (worth what you pay for it)
If you came to me and asked for advice about this situation this is what I recommend.
1. Today, get a copy of the PRCA and NSAA (ANSI and ASTM standards and make sure you meet those standards. Yes, both sets. If there is a conflict between the two, justify why you have adopted one over the other in writing now, prior to a problem.
2. Every year have someone new come see your course. They don’t have to have some designation on their wall, unless it says architect or engineer (see below!). They should have experience to look at your course and your operation and make sure you are not making mistakes. Maybe trade off. You go to their course, and they come to your course.
a. Don’t have them give you a report, which is just proof you are negligent.
b. Don’t tell them why you do something, unless they ask.
c. Listen, listen to everything they suggest, ask questions and then see what you need to do.
3. Every couple of years have an engineer, architect, or contractor came out and look at your course. These are the people who know how courses should be built and have the education and experience to make sure it was built correctly and is still holding together.
a. Someone with 12 years in the industry may be able to tell you the testing strength of a bolt and whether the bolt and whatever it is attached to are working still. However, that knowledge is defeated with a degree from a college that says engineer or architect.
Pay attention, (If nothing else for the laughs.) and make sure you know what is going on because you as a ropes course owner or manager are the person that is going to take the beatings and suffer the most when the organizations created to support you spend your money fighting each other.
If nothing else I should get a plug for explaining all the acronyms in the industry!
For more articles on Ropes Courses see:
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The Challenge/Ropes Course Industry is still fighting after all these years……it is a very sad song.
The challenge course, or as it was known in its beginning, the ropes’ course industry, is still setting itself up to be sued, successfully sued. My calculations show they have had judgments and settlements in excess of $5.1 million. See Payouts in Outdoor Recreation. Not included in those calculations are another $3.1 million that I learned of that was a settlement this past summer (2011). In 10 years, the industry has had $8.2 million in pay outs based upon my research. Who knows how much more has been paid that is confidential settlements or judgments I can’t find.
In my opinion, a major part of the problem is standards. Which is probably why they are losing these suits and why the industry is a mess?
Standards for things; bolts, screws, wood, concrete are already done by the ASTM. Those are great standards, created correctly and are needed by this industry. Those standards are always going to trump anything the ropes’ course industry does. Consequently, ignoring that is a joke. For things (anything without a personality) refer to and adopt the ASTM standards.
Any standard that recreates or redoes the standards established by the ASTM is 1) a waste of time and 2) only a way to create litigation. The ASTM standard is going to be controlling. If the standard created by an industry association is lower than the ASTM standard or even different, the standard will be violated because the ASTM will be controlling.
For any cables/wire, the European standards for ski lifts control. Those standards on wire have been around for almost 100 years and are great. Again, this is a monster waste of time and energy to create something that does not matter.
For people, get rid of those standards. People make mistakes, not concrete. If it can make a mistake, dump the standard attached to it. For more on this issue see Trade Association Standards sink a Summer Camp when a plaintiff uses them to prove Camp was negligent, Expert Witness Report: ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp, and ACA “Standards” are used by Expert for the Plaintiff in a lawsuit against a Camp
Here is what the National Ski Area Association says about standards: See NSAA and standards. Understand that the lifts have standards but the ski areas do not. The NSAA is like 99% of the rest of the trade associations in the world; they know that writing standards is a legal nightmare.
What you should do.
If you are part of the ropes’ course industry, you need to protect yourself from the problems created by these dual standards. Get both sets of standards and create reasons why you are not following specific ones. That way in advance, you protect yourself. Be specific, not just it does not apply and do not use the word money or cost unless you can show a better way that may be cheaper.
Resolution of the issues for the Standards
There are several options on how to resolve the problem.
1. One group can get to the ANSI, finish up and have “standards.” However, this will only work if the other group, then drops its standards. One group has indicated they will not. Can you think of this getting any worse that would occur?
2. Eliminate both sets of “standards” and start gain from scratch. Go to the ASTM and set up a committee to set up standards and adopt all the ASTM ones that are done. What is left can be written at that point. I suspect that will be a short piece of paper.
I believe this alternative has the best legal benefits.
3. Find six people who are not vested in winning. It is too small of a job for anything less, and I don’t think you can find eight impartial people with respect to the groups. They should go through each standard and write down the best one and move on. I would give them standards that are not identified as to who created which ones. All they are working with is words on paper, not logos or IDs.
If you want to see where standards can go too far read this article: Playgrounds will be flat soon. No city can meet the playground standards with the current budgets they have to work with.
If you are part of this industry, good luck. There are a lot of great people in the industry; however, a lot of them have drunk the cool-aid from one group or another and cannot see past their respective “turf.”
Until the standards for operations are gone and there is only one set of standards for the industry, it will be a plaintiff’s playground.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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