Amusements and theme parks are a British institution. Most of us remember pleasant summer days riding on the ‘log-flume’, and terrifying ourselves witless in the haunted house or on giant gravity defying roller-coasters. Or you may have memories of the fairground coming to your home town and enjoying rides such as the Waltzer, dodgems, playing ‘hook a duck’ and eating hotdogs and candy floss. The recollections of our adventures to amusement and theme parks are for most of us, pleasant and cherished; but unfortunately for others, this is not the case. Whilst rare in the UK, accidents do occur at amusement parks, and some injuries suffered prove to be life-changing. In this article, we will review some of the larger cases of theme park accidents in recent years and who is responsible for the safety of visitors and employees.
A case of criminal negligence
On June 2nd 2015, on the ‘Smiler’ rollercoaster at Alton Towers, a carriage containing 16 people collided with a stationary ‘test’ car. Eleven of the passengers received minor injuries; four received catastrophic lower limb injuries and two went on to have leg amputations. One person also suffered severe neck and abdominal trauma. As an immediate consequence following the accident, the HSE served a Prohibition Notice to the park owners, Merlin Entertainments, to prevent the ride from being used until remedial action had been undertaken. Following a thorough investigation, the HSE commenced criminal action as it was found that two employees operating the ride on the day had failed to follow basic safety processes prior to the incident. Merlin Entertainments plead guilty and received a £5million fine.
In a more recent case, on 9th May 2017, 11-year-old EvhaJannath died after falling from a boat on the Splash Canyon ride at Drayton Manor Park. In response, similar rides were closed at Alton Towers, Legoland and Thorpe Park, as a precautionary measure.
A good track record for safety
Major accidents such as those at Alton Towers and Drayton Manor are thankfully rare. This is backed up by latest statistics, which show that British amusement parks enjoy a low accident rate. Melvin Sandell, a specialist fairground inspector at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE),stated in the Business Reporter that there are more than one-billion “bums on seats” on rides each year, and of those, there has been one recorded fatality in the past seven years and 35 people required medical treatment for injuries. The low incident rate is due in large part to the safety measures having been implemented, including full seating restraints and electronic technology used to ensure any anomalies are quickly flagged and the ride stopped automatically. Modern rides are designed and manufactured in a highly bespoke manner for the environment in which they will be placed, and safety is built in to every aspect of the structure.
While theme parks have an overall good track-record for safety, the risk of less serious injury and illness should not be overlooked. Typical incidents and injuries at amusement parks or fairgrounds include slips on slippery surfaces, falling over unidentified trip hazards, cuts, whiplash, head injuries and food poisoning.
Larger theme parks tend to see fewer accidents as they are regularly inspected by the HSE. Local temporary funfairs and carnivals however, are not scrutinised to the same degree and do pose a risk of injury in comparison to the static parks monitored by HSE.
Who is responsible for safety at amusement parks?
The ultimate responsibility for the safety of amusement or theme parks falls to the owners. The owners must, under Health and Safety law, ensure that the park or venue is safe for visitors and employees. By failing to maintain equipment or structures, implement proper safety signage, train staff or provide a clean and sanitary environment, operators may be deemed to have acted negligently if an incident should occur. If you or a family member have been injured at a theme / amusement park, carnival or fairground, and it can be proven that an individual employee or the company themselves were negligent, then it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation against them.
Compensation may assist in funding the cost of any additional medical treatment or counselling, in addition to helping you cover costs incurred and living expenses if you are unable to work for a period.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have been poisoned as a result of an accident at a theme park and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.