Amusement Park Safety

August 01, 2017

Amusement parks immediately tend to bring memories to mind – the nostalgia, the entertainment, possibly the faint taste of cotton candy or the excited shouts of a child winning a plush animal at a carnival game. On a warm summer day, the draw toward roller coasters and water slides is so strong.

Sadly, though, too often we hear of the darker side of amusement parks, especially relative to our friends in the United States. Most recently, a ride malfunction at the Ohio State Fair left one dead and seven more injured. These tragic incidents seem to surface several times a summer, and every time the question is asked: how safe are we here in Canada?

Well, the good news for adrenaline junkies north of the border is that Canadian regulations are exceptionally stringent. Rides and attractions are handled on a provincial level across Canada with the exception of Ontario and Saskatchewan, which are handled by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and the Technical Safety Authority of Saskatchewan, respectively.

Comparatively, while the United States give regulatory oversight to each individual state, the amount of oversight varies greatly by state, with several states having no official governmental inspections. Too often, this results in inspections done by private industry with varying levels of quality control and standards. 

But to get back to the initial question: how safe are we in Canada? While nationwide injury statistics are difficult to come by, owing to each province tracking injuries differently and independently, the amusement park industry in Canada hasn’t had a fatality since 1998.

According to the TSSA in Ontario, 94 per cent of injuries on amusement rides come, in part or in whole, due to user error. So, while you can remain assured that theme parks are regularly inspected and maintained, here are some tips to keep you and your family safe both on and off the rides:

  • Follow every safety regulation. They’re in place for a reason. Amusement park administrators want you to have fun and enjoy yourself – but they want you to leave injury-free, too.
  • Never try to cheat a height restriction on a ride. If a sign says you must be five feet tall to ride, don’t stand on your tiptoes if you’re 4’11”. The same holds true with regards to weight. The height and weight restrictions are in place to ensure the proper function of the seat restraints and, if the restraint is holding a smaller or larger body than the engineer expected, it may not be as effective.
  • For the same reason, don’t stand up or put your body in a position that is not expected. You may accidentally hit your head on a low-hanging edge or be thrown unexpectedly off-balance.
  • Avoid taking any loose objects on rides. They may fly away and, in addition to losing the object, it may hit someone else and cause injury.
  • Never go into restricted areas. This includes going under a ride to find a hat that may have flown off your head.
  • Don't even think about cutting in line. Nothing provokes more fights and nasty exchanges in theme parks than impatient folk who won't wait their turn. If you happen to witness line jumping, report it to the nearest employee at the ride or a security officer.
  • Choose water over juice and soft drinks whenever you get thirsty, and don't drink alcohol until you are done with rides for the day. (Alcohol dehydrates you, leaving you at risk for sunstroke and heat exhaustion. It also impairs your judgment, putting you at greater risk for injury on rides.)
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clean, dry socks. The heat reflecting off asphalt pavement can give you a nasty rash if you are wearing sandals or no socks. Plus, you'll be on your feet for much of the day, and will need the extra support from a good pair of shoes.
  • If you see something possibly dangerous, like an unusually bumpy wheel, broken restraint, or any thing else that could impair or jeopardize the safety of a park guest or staff member, alert them immediately. Better safe than sorry. 

The goal for everyone involved with the amusement park, whether it’s you, the engineer, the park or your family, is for everyone to enjoy themselves and to be safe. Do your part, trust the amusement park operators to do theirs, and have a blast!