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Patron injured falling from amusement ride

In October 2020, a woman suffered serious injuries when she fell from an amusement ride known as the “Hangover”.

Rider safety is paramount

There are many potential risks associated with operating amusement devices. Examples of amusement device incidents include failure/s of:

  • rider restraint systems (e.g. patrons ejected from a ride)
  • control systems (e.g. gondolas colliding into each other on a ride)
  • electrical systems (e.g. electrical components overheating and catching fire)
  • structural components (e.g. metal fatigue leading to roller coaster track collapse)
  • mechanical components (e.g. faulty hydraulic component resulting in uncontrolled seizure of the ride)
  • ride emergency response plan (e.g. inability to undertake rescue of patrons from a ride stalled at height due to emergency services’ rescue vehicles being of inappropriate reach or manoeuvrability for the situation).

Under work health and safety (WHS) legislation, designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers have a duty to ensure plant such as amusement devices are, so far as is reasonably practicable, without risk to health and safety. Duty holders must ensure the provision and maintenance of safe plant such as amusement devices. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking.

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 has specific provisions that apply to certain amusement devices. The person with management or control of an amusement device must ensure that:

  • the amusement device is operated by a person who has been provided with instruction and training in the proper operation of the device and the person is competent to operate the device
  • the amusement device is checked every day it is being used before it is operated
  • the amusement device is operated without passengers on each day before allowing patrons on the ride itself
  • daily checks and operation of the amusement device without passengers are appropriately recorded in a logbook.
  • the operator of the device is clearly identifiable
  • a detailed inspection of the device is carried out at least once every 12 months by a competent person

Instruction and training for the operator of the ride must include:

  • procedures for checking the device before it is operated with passengers
  • starting, operating and stopping the device under normal conditions
  • stopping the device in an emergency
  • providing for the safe access of passengers onto or into the device, including how to place, manage and secure passengers
  • giving safety instructions about the device to passengers
  • providing for the safe exit of passengers off or out of the device, including how to exit the device –
    • in an emergency
    • because of a power failure or malfunction.

The person with management and control of an amusement device at a workplace must ensure maintenance, inspection and, if necessary, testing of the ride is carried out:

  • by a competent person; and
  • in accordance with –
    • the recommendations of the designer or manufacturer or both; and
    • if a maintenance manual for the amusement device has been prepared by a competent person, the requirements of that document.

For most ride owners, an engineer or the ride manufacturer will need to be consulted.

Managing WHS risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:

  1. Identify hazards– find out what could cause harm
  2. Assess risks– understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be, and the likelihood of it happening
  3. Control risks– implement the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  4. Review control measures– to ensure they are working as planned.

Control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control. Duty holders must work through this hierarchy to choose the controls which most effectively eliminate or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks.

Risk control measures can include:

  • Engineering- consider whether modifications to the amusement device will improve safety. Examples include –
    • designing the restraint system to ensure it is effective for a broad range of rider sizes by adding variable locking positions to the rider restraint
    • fitting an interlock system to prevent the launch of the ride without all the restraints being in the locked position
    • the restraint system designed to sound engineering principles and physical characteristics based on appropriate anthropometric data
    • using the right tools and parts for any maintenance.
  • Administrative controls- if risk remains, it must be further minimised by implementing administrative controls. For example:
    • providing a loading plan with details of any rider restrictions that apply, including information on the physical limits of riders(maximum and minimum rider sizes)
    • regular maintenance and inspection of the amusement device by a competent person, according to the manufacturer’s specifications (a logbook and operating and maintenance manuals must be kept)
    • ensuring the device has an annual inspection by a competent person (such as an engineer)
    • providing operators with appropriate information, training and instruction to ensure the amusement device is operated safely and competently
    • amusement device owner must take steps to monitor the operation of the ride to ensure correct procedures are being followed diligently by the operator.

The control measures you put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned. This includes checking that the restraint system, which is an engineering control measure to prevent ejection, remains effective for the range of allowable rider sizes.

More Information

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