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12-year-old jumps from amusement ride when safety harness releases

In May 2023, a 12-year-old sustained fractures to her foot when she jumped from the seat of an amusement ride.

Early investigations found the child was harnessed into the amusement ride when for reasons not yet known the harness released. It appears a staff member immediately engaged the emergency stop, at which time the child jumped from her seat to the ground

Safety issues

There are many risks associated with operating amusement devices. Examples of failures include:

  • 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 a sweep arm failure or structural collapse)
  • mechanical components (e.g. faulty hydraulic component resulting in uncontrolled movement of the ride)
  • ride emergency response plans (e.g. inability to rescue patrons from a ride stalled at height due to unavailability of emergency services’ high reach rescue vehicles).

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Amusement device regulations

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:

  • 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 each day before allowing patrons on the ride
  • 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
  • in accordance with:
    • the recommendations of the designer or manufacturer or both
    • 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.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

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
      • electrical interlocks are safety-related control functions and should be designed to appropriate technical standards to reduce the likelihood of any system failures that may lead to risk to patrons. This includes the risk of unsafe unlocking of restraints
    • 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
    • including information for any checks required to ensure the restraint system has been correctly set for the patron and that the locking mechanism has engaged, e.g. a push pull test
    • the amusement device owner must take steps to monitor the operation of the ride to ensure correct procedures are being followed diligently by the operator.

Control measures 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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