Investigations and accidents increase in UK theme parks

Top UK theme parks have seen a rise in the number of investigations and dangerous occurrences,  SR News Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows.

The FOI was sent out to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The data gained is on the amount of times HSE investigated the top 10 theme parks around the UK – as rated by TripAdvisor – and on any reporting of injuries and complaints during the operation of rides.

In 2015, there were four inspections into theme parks around the UK (see chart below), which is twice that of any other previous year recorded with the HSE.

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HSE inspector Melvin Sandell, who runs the day-to-day operational policy for fairground and theme park safety in Britain, says: “Spending time on fairground and theme park machinery has proven over time to be safer than many other broadly comparable leisure pursuits.

“Both HSE and the industry accept, however, that there is no room for complacency where safety is concerned and they will continue to work together to raise standards.”

In light of Alton Towers tragedy,  where several people were severely injured when a carriage on a ride crashed into a motionless carriage and two young women had to have leg amputations and suffered injuries, ride safety is now a very prominent issue and a major influence in choosing to look further into theme park safety.

An Alton Towers spokesperson has revealed that a ‘human error’ was the cause of the crash.

“The safety control system was manually overridden as a shutdown message was misunderstood by a member of our staff, without the proper protocols being followed.

“The devastating impact has had a direct effect on the park itself and the local economy that benefits from our business.

“With the ride being closed since June for safety refurbishment reasons, this has resulted in reduced visitor numbers, especially during the summer months where we rely on the most customers,” the spokesperson added.

It is believed that no technical or mechanical issues were found with the ride itself.

So how do the theme parks with little to no reported incidents successfully managed to consistently keep their figures down?

Steve Lomas, head of Park Operations at Drayton Manor Theme Park, said: “The health and safety of our visitors is of paramount importance.

“All of our rides comply with health and safety requirements for safe operation, maintenance and inspection processes.

“As well as the daily assessment and testing, all rides are verified regularly by independent inspectors in compliance with the HSE guidelines for safe operation.”

The figures in the chart below are from Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) which show reports and complaints made about accidents on the rides during operation.

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Alton Towers came out on top with the most incidents over the past five years, which is double that of other theme parks such as Thorpe Park and Drayton Manor Park.

Hayley Dodd, a spokesperson for Thorpe Park, said: “In order to ensure that everything is in fine working order, we carry out rigorous daily checks on all of our rides in the theme park for our staff and customers’ safety.”

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