Everyone loves the excitement of an adrenaline packed day at a theme park, but for some thrill seekers 2016 was a year to forget. Injuries to passengers after the derailment of a rollercoaster carriage in June 2016 at the UK’s M&D’s Scotland theme park and fatalities on the Thunder River Rapids ride at Australia’s Dreamworld in October 2016 have again put safety in the public attractions sector back in the spotlight.
Unsurprisingly there has been an increase in activity of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in ensuring those thrill seekers are adequately protected. In February 2016, the owner of a company that supplies marquees and tents was fined after guy-ropes securing a circus tent snapped causing it to collapse, injuring three adults and five children at Burley Park, New Forest. In March 2016, a fairground operator was fined for safety failings after two members of the public fell from a ride at the Andover Carnival.
Fairgrounds and amusement parks have been shown to be relatively safe compared to activities such as driving a car or riding a bicycle. However, these incidents serve as a stark reminder of the realities of when things go wrong. To minimise health and safety risks, ride designers and installers have specific duties to ensure that their attractions are safe when supplied and installed, to carry out any necessary research and provide information about safe use, updated in the light of their experience. Operators and attendants are under a duty to operate the ride safely. The extent of these duties must be properly understood and kept under regular review.
Whilst users expect high safety levels from risks beyond their control, incidental elements such as a dodgem bump are considered ‘part of the fun’. Good planning and management, a thorough monitoring regime and compliance with health and safety legislation, including the CDM Regulations, help ensure that ‘part of the fun’ does not turn into anything more dangerous and that both workers and visiting members of the public are not exposed to health and safety risks. As the HSE inspector said following the hearing in relation to Andover Carnival, “fairgrounds should have an illusion of danger but an underlying assurance of safety”.
Barry Hembling, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thomas Maw, Trainee Solicitor, Fladgate LLP (email@example.com)