In just over four weeks, my family and I will be holidaying in Florida, home of the world's best theme parks. For some people, nothing beats the thrill of thundering down a rollercoaster track at high speed, myself included. However, out of sheer curiosity, I began to research statistics and news stories regarding accidents on fairgrounds rides and theme parks. For some, it makes alarming reading. Whilst accidents at the high profile theme parks are thankfully, very few and far between, it would seem that the smaller, family owned, theme parks, and fairgrounds may not be as stringent in ensuring their patron's safety.
Several headlines over the last two years caught my attention, including the story of a man seeking a £250k payout from the insurers of Wicksteed Park in Kettering following an incident when he was catapulted out of a water chute "boat". Liability was admitted by the park, however, damages have not yet been awarded. Several people were hurt at the Skegness Pleasure Beach in Lincolnshire when the "Surf Rider" swing were left stranded in vertical position, when the ride came to a sudden halt mid-rotation. The emergency services were called out to rescue people from the ride. In addition, there is the tragic case of the girl who was killed when she fell from a rollercoaster at the Oakwood Theme Park near Tenby in South Wales, a number of years ago.
Thorpe Park in Surrey last year, invited media attention when it tested its then new ride "The Swarm", filled with crash test dummies, and you cannot have failed to see the photographs of the dummies, post-test, several of which had limbs amputated during the test. Whether this was in fact an example of a ride needing some serious fine tuning before members of the public were allowed to use it, or some extremely canny marketing to ensure maximum hype before the ride opened, is up for debate.
However, many cases do not make the headlines. I have successfully won compensation for people injured by faulty rides at local travelling fairs and have recently received an admission of liability on a case where a lady was trapped by a faulty lap bar, as she tried to exit the ride she was on.
The Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS) is the fairground and amusement park industry's self regulated safety inspection scheme which registers ride inspectors, and the rides that they inspect. This scheme is designed to promote and improve fairground and amusement park health and safety, through rules and guidance relating to the independent inspection of amusement park rides and devices.
The HSE also issue this advice "Fairground operators must inspect rides daily for faults before allowing people to use them. Free guidance on safe practice at fairgrounds is available from the HSE. All operators must follow this carefully to ensure that they don't put members of the public - often children - at risk".
During summer months, there seems to be a plethora of school sports days, summer fairs, church fetes etc, and many of the organisers of these events feel that a "crowd puller" would be to hire fairground rides as added attractions for their visitors. It is to be hoped that they would hire this equipment from a regulated, reputable company and carry out the appropriate risk assessments before letting people use it. The general rule of thumb is, if it looks unsafe it probably is - don't risk injury for 2 minutes of "thrill time".
By Pauline Smith