Ride Safety - a theme park’s number one priority

Posted by Sean Brian

Speak to anyone working in the theme park industry and they will all say the same; safety is their top priority.

Speak to anyone working in the theme park industry and they will all say the same; safety is their top priority. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), approximately 335 million guests safely enjoy 1.65 billion rides at 400 different US amusement parks every year. The chance of being seriously injured on a fixed-site ride at a US amusement park is 1 in 16 million. So, despite headlines about horrific accidents at fairs and theme parks, the odds of it happening are slight, you’re 40 times more likely to sustain an injury playing American football than riding a rollercoaster. And that’s because the ride engineers designing and building the rides, have as their goal, to make the ride safe. This requires a hybrid combination of mechanical engineering and control systems engineering.

Here are some of the ways Amusement Technical ensures its rides operate safely:

Safety PLCs not PCs

PCs are rarely used in theme park attractions. They’re simply not reliable enough. Theme parks expect their attractions to be operable 24/7. The advanced diagnostics in a PLC let you react to failure faster and take the needed corrective steps. There’s also greater predictability because you can be confident it will fail safe, which simplifies control system design.

“Block zone” systems

These have been devised to prevent vehicles from hitting each other. A block zone system ensures there will always be at least one empty track space, or “zone,” between two vehicles. The smallest possible zone is the length of the vehicle. This block zone control system can be used in simple boat rides or bobsled-style rides. Control mechanisms prevent vehicles from moving until the zone ahead is clear.

Single and Multiple Point Failure Analysis

This is performed on every element of the control system. It finds failure points in the system hardware, software, and mechanics—anything that would be unsafe if these points malfunctioned.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis

This procedure analyses every monitoring or control point to see the outcome if it fails. It’s conducted before any attraction opens.