With UK school holidays either already underway or imminent, this is a busy time of year for leisure businesses. If you operate in this industry and haven't done so already, it's worth spending time revisiting your health & safety procedures and asking, are they fit for purpose?

The probability of being injured while visiting a theme park is estimated at 1 in 24 million, so riding your favourite rollercoaster is comparatively safer than travelling by aeroplane. Despite the low risk, the consequences of something going wrong with a ride, or other amusement, can be grave. In recent years, there have been a number of highly publicised incidents at UK theme parks which serve as a stark reminder of the importance of good health & safety procedures.

In May, a seven-year-old fell from a ride at Lightwater Valley theme park, Ripon. The findings of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)'s investigation into the accident are awaited. Also this year, M&D's, a theme park in Motherwell, received a £65,000 fine (which would have been £100,000 had they not plead guilty at an early stage) for failing to ensure a rollercoaster which derailed was properly maintained and in good working order. Nine people were injured.

What can leisure businesses do to reduce the risk of a ride or other attraction failing?

If you have a ride or moving attraction which children, or adults, can ride on or climb, here are six tips to help make sure they are enjoyed safely:

  1. Carry out daily checks of attractions before they are made available to the public (and record that you have done so).
  2. Make sure that you obtain competent health & safety advice (the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants' Register is a useful resource but see also the HSE's guidance for fairgrounds and amusement parks which provides information on inspections).
  3. Implement a proactive maintenance programme to minimise the need for reactive repairs.
  4. Review your risk assessments and health & safety procedures regularly - identify changes or trends that might impact on your existing approach - e.g. increased footfall, numbers of accidents or near misses, customer mis-use, unexpected weather events.
  5. Fully train staff operating the attraction and remember to monitor them to make sure they are doing so safely.
  6. Plan for emergencies so that if something does go wrong, risk of injury is minimised - think about things such as the operator's ability to switch off the attraction immediately, evacuation, first aid support, access for emergency services.


Laura McMillan

Partner & Director of Advocacy

Poppy Prior