By Lezli Baskerville |
The safety record of the amusement park industry is excellent and injuries are very rare. Approximately 300 million people visit parks in the United States and take 1.7 billion safe rides on attractions each year. The chance of being injured seriously on an amusement ride in a fixed-site park is one in 24 million. (For comparison, the National Weather Service estimates the chance of being struck by lightning in the U.S. is 1 in 775,000.) Enjoying an amusement ride is one of the safest forms of recreation.
The industry’s long-standing safety record exists because safety is our top priority. It always has been and always will be. Providing a safe experience for our guests and for our own friends and family is at the foundation of what we do. Simply put, without the perception and reality of safety, we don’t have a business.
Incidents, no matter how rare, can garner a lot of media attention and, like with any ongoing investigation, it is not productive to speculate or respond to hearsay. It takes time to learn and evaluate the facts properly. The goal is to understand what happened, why and how to prevent it from occurring again. Contrary to recent headlines, incidents are thoroughly investigated by multiple parties including the park operator, local and state officials, third-party safety consultants and the ride manufacturer.
Additionally, well-established safety standards for amusement rides have been developed by ASTM International, one of the world’s leading independent standards-writing entities. The ASTM F24 Committee on Amusement Rides and Devices – comprised of more than 700 attraction operators, government regulators, manufacturers and consumer advocates — develops standards to address design, manufacture, testing, operation, maintenance, inspection and quality assurance. Thirty-two U.S. states and a number of government agencies worldwide incorporate ASTM standards into their regulatory guidelines.
Each day, park operators conduct mechanical, electrical and operational inspections of every ride. They also perform weekly, monthly and annual inspections of the equipment and component parts as prescribed by each attraction’s manufacturer. Insurance companies and third-party safety inspectors review our rides, and in 44 of the 50 states, state lawmakers dictate safety protocols for our industry. (There are very few parks in the other six states.)
Much as state and local governments are best suited to be regulators of elevators and escalators, driving cars and building codes, they are also best suited to oversee fixed-site attractions. They understand the conditions in which they operate and that knowledge positions them well to regulate safety.
Complex amusement rides should not be regulated by the same federal agency that regulates baby strollers, toaster ovens and ceiling fans; those are consumer goods and amusement rides do not belong in the same category. Park attractions are unique and complicated pieces of equipment, not available for purchase by the public, and their oversight and regulation should be guided by the well-defined ASTM standards carefully administered by state regulators.
Families should rest assured knowing that their safety is our top priority. State regulation works, and our safety record demonstrates its effectiveness. We support strong state regulation and measures that would truly enhance safety, not ill-conceived, underfunded federal legislation that won’t improve safety in the least.
About Paul Noland President and CEO of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
Walter Reiss Amusement Ride Safety Inspector
Jeffrey M. Reiff Attorney at Reiff and Bily