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:
- Carry out daily checks of attractions before they are made available to the public (and record that you have done so).
- 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).
- Implement a proactive maintenance programme to minimise the need for reactive repairs.
- 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.
- Fully train staff operating the attraction and remember to monitor them to make sure they are doing so safely.
- 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.