Commitment to safety on display throughout IAAPA Expo 2022

AT: Susan Storey

Safety is, and always has been, the number-one priority of the global attractions industry. With the largest gathering of industry professionals coming together for IAAPA Expo 2022, so too was the opportunity to further safety conversations and discuss harmonizing standards. IAAPA Expo exhibitor vendors and suppliers shared a few thoughts about safety for their clients and the industry with Amusement Today

Leading control system integrator, Birket Engineering, which specializes in life-safety ride and show control systems for the parks and other attractions, made sure that during conversations on the trade show floor, the team fully understood potential client needs was always coupled with keeping safety top of mind. The week in Orlando reflected the success the company had experienced in 2022 and gave a peek into what’s to come. 

Steve Birket shared, “2023 looks to be another great year for the parks and new projects. We had the best IAAPA Expo ever. Attention to safety is always the number-one priority, of course. Each new project brings a heightened emphasis on safety design and testing practice.”

Birket’s experiences and thoughts were echoed by other exhibitors who found some attendees’ and buyers’ focuses seemed to be shifting toward making changes that improve safety of the environment, as well as that of guests and ride operation. 

As president of Gorilla Lube, Steve Lee has manufactured bio-based, USDA-certified products for many years. Specializing in biobased product research, design, development and manufacturing, the family-owned company has worked closely with the USDA BioPreferred program since 2002. Gorilla’s company lubricants are non-toxic, reduce run-off and drip from chains, and use eco-friendly products that do not harm plants, soil, or the water supply, nor are they lethal if accidentally ingested by animals. Most importantly though, Lee is quick to point out, “Our products work better, and reduce costs for our customers.”

Lee was pleased with the traffic and conversations held during IAAPA Expo and shared that he saw a significant change on the floor this year versus previous. 

“Potential new customers came to us seeking products that would get the job done and are environmentally safe,” he continued. “While in years past, many may have viewed our green initiatives as a bonus to meeting their needs; buyers this year came to us seeking environmentally conscious solutions up front that could improve their overall operations.”

“We are the only lubricant that is bio-based; it works and is safe,” Lee shared. “And while we typically work with clients that have roller coasters, we also support ski resorts and their ski lifts. You can say our ethos is to work better, reduce cost, protect the environment and set industry standards. It was great to have people proactively come to us to discuss how they can become more environmentally friendly without having to sacrifice quality. We were ready to provide the answer!”

Reflecting on the overall week itself, Lee added, “It was also nice to meet in person again. Last year, I thought most of us were still a bit unsure about how to navigate close engagement, and what it would be like coming back together for a trade show. This year it was good to shake hands, have relaxed conversations and focus on moving forward.” 

For VLocker North America, safety and security go hand in hand. A global manufacturer of electronic lockers for over 30 years, VLocker has been a leader in creating lockers that not only keep park guests’ valuables safe, but also provide a crucial solution for operators dealing with the ongoing issue of personal items dropping from moving rides. Its innovative double-sided electronic lockers  provide a seamlessly simple answer to helping operators prevent items such as cell phones and keys from being carried onboard by ride guests. 

“Our staff is proud to partner with clients to help develop the right locker solution for their park,” said Steven Wooley, chief operating officer, VLocker. “It’s important to all of us that we provide products that are easy to install and deliver peace of mind for parks and their guests.”

An extra surprise this year, VLocker was presented with the 2022 IAAPA Brass Ring Award for Best Booth design in their exhibit size classification. The entirely new booth layout displayed Vlocker’s original dual-sided Ride Locker solution and welcomed new and current customers to easily meet with the team and discuss goals and plans for 2023 and beyond.

Amidst the sounds and smells of the tradeshow floor, attendees once again saw the latest in bright, imaginative and innovative fun for inflatable parks and attractions. And with each bounce and high jump, the most important aspect to creating — and selling —inflatable parks is keeping safety at the forefront of everything. 

“It sounds clicheˊ, but safety comes first at Galaxy. It is a core concept we present to every customer from the first conversation,” shared Mike Whincup, head of design and marketing, Galaxy Multi Rides. “As a designer of attractions, I could not sleep at night knowing that I hadn’t done everything possible to make our rides and attractions as safe as possible. This is why we require new customers to view a set up and operational instruction video, fully read and understand the operations manual and take a safety test to activate their product warranty.

“With our Inflatable Park installations, we also provide and facilitate a complete day dedicated to educating and training the owners and operational staff on every single attraction in the park,” he continued “This ensures the end user — the park’s guests — remain top of mind. It is an important aspect of our company profile and customer service and remains a sales tool that differentiates us from others. The culture of safety from design to operation is a consistent theme Galaxy carries with customers from the very beginning.”

Just as Galaxy Multi Rides provides safety training to its clients, ongoing safety education is critical for operators to maintain proper safety compliance, standards and reporting across all aspects of the industry. From the tradeshow floor, AIMS International signed a three-year agreement with the Colombian Association of Attractions and Amusement Parks (ACOLAP) to provide a comprehensive amusement ride safety education program to ACOLAP members (See story, page 60). 

Mary Jane (MJ) Brewer, executive director, AIMS International, reflected on the significance of announcing the monumental step toward increasing international industry safety education during IAAPA Expo. 

“As the world leader in amusement safety education, it is our responsibility to stay at the forefront of the industry’s needs,” said MJ Brewer, executive director, AIMS International. “In addition to this new partnership with ACOLAP, we also shared further details about expanding the program and offerings for our annual safety seminar for the third consecutive year.”

Referring to the 2023 AIMS International Safety Seminar, the expanded program now includes over 300 hours of educational content which will be offered during the 2023 AIMS International Safety Seminar. The annual event will be held January 8-13, 2023, in Galveston, Texas.

Throughout Expo week, plans were made to attend facilitated learning, new international programs, and to take part in ongoing educational opportunities in 2023, but it was the camaraderie and shared passion that often led to the most memorable conversations. 

“The IAAPA Expo is one of the best settings the industry has for informal safety exchanges.  By design, there is no better industry networking environment than a trade show where manufacturers and operators are all talking with each other about the past year of operations and the years ahead,” shared Jim Seay, president Premier Rides, Inc. “As safety is the cornerstone of the amusement industry, many of the discussions center around new technologies, best practices and lessons learned that continue to raise the bar for safe operations globally.” 

A strong pledge to safety and safety training is more than a core value at Ellis and Associates, Inc.; it is the only way to do business. The world leader in aquatic safety since 1983, Ellis’s dedicated team has one unified mission:  zero drownings. 

During the IAAPA Expo, Richard “RAC” Carroll, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Ellis & Associates, Inc., shared, “In the past three years we have seen record attendance at our International Aquatic Safety School and this year had the opportunity to meet many new faces of longtime clients that were attending IAAPA Expo for the first time. We expanded our booth and offered 15-minute Aqua Talks each day of the Expo discussing a range of topics from pool and ride inspections to leveraging new safety technology. The Aqua Talks were open to anyone and what we loved the most was the number of younger professionals that showed up eager to learn more about safety and the aquatics industry.”

And while tradeshow exhibit booths are not exactly part of Ellis’s daily commitment to accountability-based, results-driven aquatic safety programs, the company was proud to earn a 2022 IAAPA Brass Ring Award for Best Booth in their exhibit size classification.

The global attractions industry’s commitment to safety is evident not only on the tradeshow floor but in practice, every day, at parks around the world, and on the smiling faces of the millions of guests who enjoy them. 

This article appears in the  JANUARY 2023 issue of Amusement Today.
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