Amusement parks are fun and not just for kids. Many amusement park attractions are designed for adults. Amusement parks include such things as "carnival rides", rock climbing facilities, roller coasters, boardwalk style amusement parks, go-cart tracks, family racetracks, bungee jumps and the like. These facilities often feature powered machinery and motorized vehicles. These facilities and the equipement utilized at the facilities can provide a safe, fun, healthy activity for children and adults. However, when the operators of these facilities fail to follow the basic safety principles which govern the amusement park industry, they expose their paying guests to serious and even deadly hazards.
There are six essential elements to safe amusement park operation:
(1) Employees must be properly trained;
(2) The equipment must be properly designed and built;
(3) The equipment must be properly maintained;
(4) Proper rules and policies must be enacted;
(5) The rules and policies must be consistently enforced;
(6) Employees must be properly supervised.
The proper training of employees is the safety measure which is most often ignored by amusement park operators. Very often, the employees operating potentially dangerous rides at amusement parks are teenagers. At some amusement parks and resort areas, it is common to employ teenagers and young adults from foreign countries who have limited understanding of the English language. These employees are often the last layer of safety for customers who are boarding, riding and getting off of potentially dangerous powered equipment. Failing to carefully and properly train these individuals is a formula for disaster. The employees must be taught how the machinery works; what risks are inherent in the machinery; what the manufacturer's instructions and warnings say; how to safely adjust harnesses and safety belts; who can and can't use the equipement safely; where the emergency stops are located and how to respond to an emergency or potentially unsafe act or condition.
Product safety has improved dramatically over the last couple of decades. Improvements in seat belts, emergency stops, pinch point guards and the like have greatly enhanced the safety of all sorts of consumer and industrial products. What was acceptable or even state of the art twenty or thirty years ago may now be outdated and an accident waiting to happen. Many amusement rides and movable carnival rides are very old and completely outdated when it comes to safety features. It is incumbent upon amusement park operators to keep their equipment up to date, and to avoid exposing their customers to unnecessary and unavoidable safety hazards. Old, outdated, unsafe equipment must be regularly replaced or brought up to current safety standards.
Maintenance of equipment is every bit as important as the design and construction of the equipment. A properly designed, well constructed machine can be extremely dangerous if it is not properly maintained. seat belts and safety harnesses have to be properly adjusted and replaced when necessary. Electrical interlocks have to be constantly checked and repaired or replaced when necessary. Pinch points, shear points and nip points have to be checked on a constant basis to make sure that guards remain in place, operational and in good repair. Brakes and emergency stops have to be checked on a daily basis to make sure that the equipment can come to a stop quickly and safely.
Proper rules and procedures have to be in place in order for amusement parks to be operated safely. A ride which is safe in normal conditions may be unsafe in rainy conditions or when there are high winds. A ride that is perfectly safe for a teenager may be very dangerous for a young child. A ride that is safe for someone weighing 80 pounds may be completely unsafe for a person weighing 180 pounds. All of these considerations have to be taken into account, and detailed rules and policies have to be established by the amusement park operators. Very often, the rides and equipment which are used at the amusement parks come with very detailed warnings and recommendations from the manufacturer regarding safe use. It is incumbent upon the amusement park operator to read these materials and formulate rules and policies that comply with the manufacturer's advice and warnings.
Rules and policies are worthless if they are not enforced. A detailed, beautifully organized written policies and procedures booklet does no good if the amusement park operators do not enforce each and every one of the policies. Enforcement of the policies very often requires the amusement park operator to choose safety over profit. Amusement park operators are very often reluctant to shut down operations due to weather or other conditions that make the operator unnecessarily dangerous. Operators are likewise reluctant to turn customers away, especially when business is slow. However, amusement park operators, like all business operators, are obligated to put the safety of their paying customers above their own bottom line.
Teenagers, as a group, are not known for their attention span or for their fanatical attention to detail. This is true even in the most formal settings. Put a workforce compromised of teenagers in an amusement park environment, and you can almost guarantee bad behavior if you do not carefully and constantly supervise that workforce. Placing a 19 year-old "veteran" employee in charge of 16, 17 and 18 year-old junior employees is not always appropriate. Amusement park operators must take the role of employee supervision seriously and must provide appropriate, effective supervision. Failure to do so greatly increases the risk of unnecessary, avoidable injuries.
If you or a loved one was injured in an amusement park accident, contact a Philadelphia and New Jersey personal injury lawyer who can talk to you about your options for filing an injury claim and help to fight for compensation. We will provide a free, no obligation consultation on your case. 1-877-944-8396