We’re in this together

AT NOTEBOOK: John W.C. Robinson

It’s become almost a cliché within the amusement industry to say that “…safety is everyone’s business,” but it’s also a true statement.


When I first started visiting parks with my kids, they’d always remark on how I’d halt for a moment to help direct a car that was having issues getting out of its parking spot or when I’d stop to pick up trash along the midway and dispense of it properly. I’d explain, “It takes seconds out of our day to step forward, just do the right thing. Every employee here is somehow working to make sure we have a good day. The least I can do is take care of something small that may improve someone else’s day.”

In one of my first years working in the industry, I was doing marketing work for a small amusement park. Late that summer, they opened their first wooden coaster and I found myself (with permission) in an area that’s normally off limits while the ride was in operation. I was taking photos of the ride in action for the following year’s print materials. When I zoomed in on a shot, something fluttering caught my eye. I started searching around with my camera lens to see if I could pick up what was moving into the frame, figuring it was maybe a bird nest or similar. One of the wooden rails along the side of the coaster had come loose and was only secured on one end. When the coaster would roar by at 50 mph, the shaking would bounce the piece of wood around. I turned and informed the park escort who was with me. Quickly, the ride was shut down, maintenance was out and the wooden railing repaired.  The whole process took about 15 minutes, but I shudder to think of what could’ve happened had I not acted and said something.

Acting and reacting are some of the keys to safety within facilities. Education is another big key. While visiting Dollywood for a media event, a small group of us had gathered for a press conference near Thunderhead and we suddently heard a loud thud. We turned to see an older man, a photographer for the Knoxville News Sentinel, had collapsed onto the concrete. Initially thinking he’d collapsed from the heat, we quickly discovered he’d suffered a cardiac arrest. Dollywood staff who just happened to be nearby — ride operators, custodians and guest relations — quickly took charge and began performing CPR. When Dollywood’s First Aid response team arrived, they were able to resuscitate him and have him air-lifted to a nearby hospital, where he made a full recovery. The photographer later told the Knoxville News Sentinel: “Doctors [told] me that if I had not been [at Dollywood], they told my wife I would have passed. There were people who were there who knew exactly what to do and did it instantly and didn’t hesitate.“

Safety is everyone’s job. There isn’t an exception to that. From the owner/operator to manufacturers to part-time employees on the custodial staff to the guests themselves, the more we know and the more we all work together, the safer everyone is — and the more enjoyable a day can be had in amusement facilities around the world.

This article appears in the JANUARY 2020 issue of Amusement Today.
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