May 24, 2019 | Blog

Theme Park Safety – The risk of failure

by Paul Duff
Theme Park Safety and Health - Notify Technology

Theme parks are considered a staple family attraction across the world, known best for their rides and rollercoasters that appeal to thrill-seeking children and adults alike. Their success and profitability are maintained by installing ever more daring rides and appealing to popular cultural figures and franchises.

However, due to the nature of theme park rides, when something goes wrong the results can be incredibly serious and the stakes for theme park managers in ensuring the safety of their facilities are very high. Over the years, failure to comply with health and safety regulations, poor management systems and mechanical defects have led to unfortunate incidents on various rides and rollercoasters, resulting in serious consequences.

In 2005, an incident on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers caused by the failure of a test carriage which then collided with a carriage carrying 16 people lead to serious injuries, prosecution and a £5million fine to the operating company, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd.

In 1972, a mechanical failure on the Big Dipper at the Battersea Funfair caused a collision in which five children were killed and more injured. The fair closed down two years later due to the loss of visitors and reputation.

It’s therefore of the highest importance that theme park managers take every precaution to ensure full compliance with health and safety regulations (the HSE provides a wealth of information on your responsibilities and legal obligations).

Putting in place a strong health and safety management framework to deal with the safety of your theme park’s rides and attractions will help you to stay compliant with the relevant legislation, and reduce the risk of failure.

Theme Park Safety & your responsibilities

Whether you’re a ride controller or a self-employed ride operator, the responsibility for ensuring the safety of both employees and the public falls to you.

You are responsible for:

  • Managing the risks and hazards related to specific rides, including their assembly, running and dismantling.
  • Informing and training your team to ensure they are able to operate the rides without creating risks for either themselves or others around them.

Managing Risks

  • Risk Assessment – Carrying out a thorough assessment of the risks your machines create is required by law. Through effective risk assessment, you can identify scenarios that could potentially pose dangers to the public or employees and identify safety measures that will minimise these dangers.  By keeping clear and complete records showing that you have completed a risk assessment and acted on the results to reduce the level of danger to the public and employees, also means your business can maintain compliance.

Implementing the use of health and safety management software can streamline the risk assessment process, by providing a time-saving and comprehensive solution to building risk assessment documents. Software to assign tasks to team members, track actions and send reminders and notifications can help to ensure that remedial work is completed, as well as provide an audit trail to prove that you are fulfilling your responsibilities.

  • Ride Inspection and Maintenance – By law, you must have each ride inspected annually by a competent person – usually, an inspector registered under the Amusement Devices Inspection Procedure Scheme (ADIPS), or in the case of inflatable attractions, under the PIPA scheme. Regular maintenance should also be carried out by a competent person, and in the case of a safety feature being affected, a competent design reviewer should inspect the feature after the maintenance has taken place. Routine maintenance procedures may differ between individual rides, so careful planning and scheduling of inspections and maintenance should be practised.

Scheduling software can provide a framework for your inspection and maintenance cycles ensuring your inspections are completed on time and the risk of missing important maintenance deadlines is reduced.

  • Accident History – It is good practice to be aware of the common faults or incidents that can happen with similar machinery to your own. Both HSE statistics website and NAFLIC publish details of incidents involving particular types of machinery, which serves as a useful tool for ensuring similar problems don’t occur with your own rides and attractions.
  • Emergency Procedures – Putting in place systems for dealing with foreseeable emergencies means that your visitors and staff are safeguarded whatever the situation. Whether evacuation of the whole park is required or just a particular ride, being able to instigate emergency procedures is vital. Consider the possible problems your ride might encounter, such as power-loss, fire or collapse, and ensure that a plan is in place for every scenario.
  • Incident reporting – It’s important that your team have a channel to report any accidents, incidents or near misses. This means that you can identify any areas where remedial action is required. Using incident management software means you can also use data to detect patterns, allowing you to prevent incidents from happening before any serious repercussions can result.

Informing your team

Ensuring your team is well-informed, capable and able to take responsibility for your theme park’s rides and attractions are essential in safeguarding both visitors and staff.

Training should include:

  • Unloading, building, dismantling and reloading – For rides that are part of temporary or travelling theme parks and fairs, being able to safely set up and dismantle the equipment is very important. This might mean your teams require further training in manual handling, working at height and electrical safety. Ensuring your team knows how to set up the rides correctly not only protects them from injuring themselves and each other but also means that the risk of danger to visitors from incorrectly assembled equipment is minimised.
  • Daily Checks – The possibility of incidents occurring is reduced when proper checks and inspections are routinely carried out. This means that your team members need to know which parts of the machine to check, how to carry out the check properly, how to record that the checks have been done, and what to do when a problem is found.
  • Rider Safety – When running the machine, it’s crucial that members of the public are safeguarded, which means being strict with who can enjoy the ride. Restrictions on height, weight or physical ability can apply, as well as restrictions on visitors who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if the rider is pregnant. Workers need to be able to identify potential problems, make decisions on who should not be allowed to ride, and to deal with the public in a way that does not escalate or lead to violence. Clear guidelines are imperative.
  • Operating the ride – Operation of the ride includes everything from loading passengers correctly, ensuring it is correctly balanced, making sure all restraints are correctly in place and safety features are working, ensuring spectators and queuing visitors are clear of any danger zones while the machine is in motion, operating the ride safely through manual control and dealing with incidents such as passengers who become ill or injured while on the ride.
  • Emergency Procedures – Your team should have full training in evacuation and other emergency procedures, and it’s also recommended that they are able to access Health and Safety documentation for reference. Using a cloud-based storage system can be useful, as it means all staff are able to access information from their mobile devices.

Reduce the risk of failure with Notify

Our suite of Health and Safety management software can provide you with a robust framework on which to manage the health and safety of your theme park, fair or mechanical rides. With solutions to incident reporting, incident management, inspection and audit scheduling and risk assessments, our software can streamline your health and safety processes as well as help you to ensure compliance. Take a look at how our software can benefit the arts, recreation and leisure industry.