Ski Area Management Magazine reports the 39th Rocky Mountain Lift Association Spring Conference and Trade Show in Grand Junction, Colo., May 10-13, drew the second-largest turnout in its history. The attendance reflects the renewed sense of optimism about the future that also fueled the nation’s 59.7 million resort visits last winter.
RMLA continued its multi-track program for training and personnel management, safety, basic and advanced mechanics and electronics, and government rules and regulations. With an increasing number of The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visits to winter resorts, OSHA had a presence in several seminars this year. And of course, lift and conveyor companies hosted manufacturer-specific sessions.
Aviation consultant John Goglia, who is often credited with establishing the importance of "human maintenance factors" in the airline industry, noted the many parallel issues faced by mechanics in the airline and lift industries. Among those: pressures to drive costs down by cutting staff and raising efficiency, and resulting pressure on managing safety. He recounted some serious incidents that resulted from deferred maintenance, improper training, and plain human error. He urged lift mechanics and managers to do as he did, and collect solid data on what incidents have occurred and why. "Data will drive your maintenance program and help you", he said. "You have to have data, and track it, to convince management of the need to change the safety culture".
Safety is always at the top of the RMLA agenda. One of the annual highlights of the show, and one of the reasons for the founding of RMLA, is the "incident roundtable", during which time the audience revisits some of the previous year’s lift incidents. There were very few this past season, the brake failure at Devil’s Head, Wisc., being the most widely publicized. NSAA’s Sid Roslund described the series of events that led to the failure, from delayed maintenance to improper parts, and noted that if any one of the failures had been avoided, the incident would not have occurred. As is often the case, there were perhaps a dozen steps that led to the failure, not just a single failure. The lesson is simple: tend to the small issues before they contribute to a big problem.