Safety Management for Amusement Parks
Each year, hundreds of millions of people visit amusement parks and carnivals in North America. For the price of admission, patrons expect a day of entertainment and they usually get their money’s worth in the form of being frightened to death in haunted houses or being hurdled through the air on a roller coaster at 4 Gs. Patrons range from veteran ride enthusiasts to toddlers who’ve never been on an amusement ride before.
Amusement attractions range from kiddie trains to high-thrill giant roller coasters, carousels to whirling rides, inflatable bouncers to catapulted bungee jumpers, and wet playground equipment to 400-foot water slides. The newest rides often attain speeds of over 170 km/hr and have drops of over 300 ft. Due to the nature of the experience, many of these attractions present a potential for adverse effects or personal injury. Under normal operation, certain rides can cause riders to suffer headaches, nausea, and other effects whereas in case of an accident, riders can suffer injuries ranging from stubbed toes, minor cuts, and bruised knees to death and dismemberment.
Some common causes of ride-related injuries are the following:
In order to reduce injuries and associated insurance claims and litigation, management of an amusement park should develop comprehensive safety procedures as part of the park’s risk management program. In addition, serious efforts should be made to integrate safety into all aspects of the operation.
Amusement parks and travelling fairs are generally heavily regulated, though standards of safety vary from one jurisdiction to the next.
In Quebec, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ), has the responsibility of enforcing the sections of the Building Code and the Safety Code that apply to amusement parks. (The Building Code applies to the design and construction of the rides and the Safety Code applies to the operation of these rides.) To ensure that owners respect the Safety Code, the RBQ performs physical inspections of rides and provides remedial notices to owners or operators whenever an inspection reveals that a provision of the Safety Code is not observed. The RBQ also has the power to institute criminal proceedings against an owner and to order the shutdown, evacuation, or demolition of a ride.
In Ontario, the responsibility for ride safety falls with Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA), which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Consumer & Commercial Relations. It is a legal requirement for owners and operators of amusement rides to be licensed and to obtain a permit for each ride. The TSSA published the Amusement Ride Operators’ and Attendants’ Safety Handbook which provides best practice procedures. Similar approaches have been taken in other Canadian provinces though the specific safety regulations vary considerably between the provinces.
In the United States, there is a distinction between fixed-site amusement rides and rides in carnivals and other mobile attractions. Amusement rides in carnivals are subject to federal regulations and fall under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission whereas the regulation and inspections of rides in fixed-site amusement parks are left up to the state or municipality. As a result, oversight varies greatly among the different amusement sites.
Best Practices for Amusement Parks
In addition to complying with local safety regulations, the owner and operator should develop a comprehensive safety program to reduce the potential for injuries to employees and site visitors as well as to better respond to injury claims.
To be effective, the safety program should include the following elements:
Feel free to contact us if you’d like us to review your facility’s safety program and provide practical guidance to implementing the above elements. We share the amusement park operators’ desire to ensure that each ride provides their patrons with the ultimate thrills without any injuries or other adverse effects.