Three girls enjoying rides at a theme park in Liverpool, NSW last weekend were flung from their carriage as its door opened mid-air, and fell four metres to the ground. As reported by the ABC, emergency services were called and the teens were taken to hospital, where they were treated for injuries that included a fractured pelvis, and rib and arm wounds. The incident is not isolated, with others involving rides at theme parks having been reported over the past several years across Australia. This highlights the importance of strict safety management systems for carnivals, and the need for close monitoring and oversight by operators, venues and regulators.
As was reported in the Brisbane Times, in 2013, a five-year-old boy was flung five metres from a mechanical swing-type ‘Frisbee’ ride at a school carnival in Queensland, while in 2010, three young girls fell to the ground when a ferris wheel in Byron Bay broke down mid-ride; the riders in these cases survived. An incident involving the ‘360’ ride at the Royal Adelaide Show in September last year was another example of an amusement ride resulting in fatal consequences. As Adelaide Now reported, SafeWork SA has not yet released findings of the investigation into the incident, however, they reported a doubling of the number of inspectors at this year’s Show. In March of this year, the 33-metre-tall Green Lantern rollercoaster at Queensland’s Movie World was stopped mid-ride after a carriage’s wheel fell off, leaving six people stranded in the faulty carriage until emergency services could rescue them.
Specific stringent maintenance and safety protocols in place for carnival equipment have been established through Standards set by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). In addition, in this country the Australian Standard AS 3533.2—2009 for Amusement Rides and Devices provides proprietors and staff with requirements and guidance for the operation and maintenance of amusement rides and devices, in order to protect the health and safety of both operating staff and patrons. Rides are also regulated through state WorkSafe regulators as plant under Work Health and Safety laws. As ABC reported, in response to the Green Lantern malfunction this year, Movie World’s General Manager reassured the public that rides at the theme park are inspected for safety hazards twice-daily by engineers and ride operators, while a complete dismantle of rides occurs weekly to check individual components of the equipment.
High motion and movement rides such as ferris wheels and rollercoasters tend to attract the eye of state safety regulators, particularly given the number of reported cases involving patrons and the potential risks given the high energies involved. In the lead up to events featuring rides, venue managers are well advised to conduct appropriate due diligence of all ride operators to ensure appropriate maintenance logs, safety documentation and start up safety checklists are provided and checked.