For our first post, let’s start with a bird’s eye view of safety in the amusement industry.

Has safety improved? What are we doing to make rides more safe?

In the amusement industry there has been major advances in safety requirements throughout the years. Organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and AIMS revolve around increasing the safety standards for amusement park attractions.  Within ASTM is Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices (ASTM F24), which is a group dedicated to creating standards specifically for the amusement industry [3]. AIMS International provides safety training and certification programs for ride inspectors, operations, aquatics and maintenance personnel. It is through these organizations that we are able to ensure the safety of the amusement industry is constantly improving.

To showcase this improvement, we are going to look at safety by the numbers. Some background on our data. There are several sources of data on “injuries” in North America and several sources on park attendance numbers. While there may be data that exists that has slightly different numbers than the ones we provide, we have chosen to get the majority of our data from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Ride Safety Report. This organization works with the National Safety Council to compile data on all the amusement-related injuries in North America every year. This annual document provides insight into how safe rides are now and how safety has changed over the years [1].

A key point here is the difference between attendance-based and ridership-based injury rates. Both rates show similar trends for injuries in the amusement industry. We will focus on ridership-based injuries, which indicate how safe the rides themselves are for patrons, since that is mainly where the public concern lies.

Let’s begin in 2003 when this reporting began – there were estimated almost 2,000 injuries on amusement rides in North American in ‘03. Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, if you compare that to how many people were on rides that year, it adds up to only 1 injury per million riders. Based on those odds, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than get injured riding an amusement ride [1,2].

Since 2003, this injury rate has steadily decreased, as shown in Figure 1. Based on this data we can conclude that riding an amusement ride has become more safe every year [1].

Figure 1. IAAPA Ride Safety Report Trends [1]

But what constitutes an injury? Does this data mean that there is a 1 in a million chance that I lose my leg on this roller coaster? Of course not. Of all the injuries reported in 2018, only about 11% were considered “serious.”  Even fewer occurred from being on the ride itself. In fact, 35% of all the injuries that occurred in 2018 were just from getting on or off the rides [1].

It also depends which rides you go on. Figure 2 shows a breakdown of the types of rides and where the injuries occur for 2018. Note that the values on the vertical axis are injuries per million rides.

Figure 2. Injury Rate for each Ride Type [1]

No matter which ride you go on, your chances of incurring an injury is less than 1 in a million.

Okay, so we’ve established that injuries are unlikely to occur in amusement rides, and they’re getting more safe every year. Of course, the goal is to have zero injuries every year, so what are we doing to make rides as safe as possible? How do you make a ride more safe? We’ll go into more detail in later blogs, but for now, let’s stick to the numbers.

As discussed above, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards society that develops and delivers standards for everything from raw steel to medical devices to nuclear energy. ASTM has provided the world with over 12,000 standards to improve safety, performance, and reliability.

ASTM F24 consists of around 900 members spreading over 26 countries. These members are industry veterans, manufacturers, park owners, and anyone that aims to participate in making amusement rides safer. There are currently over 19 safety standard categories filled with regulations related to the amusement industry, and new standards are added every year. Just last year, 2 new standards were made to improve safety on indoor skydiving and hayrides [3].

Conclusion: amusement rides are some of the safest machines out there, and they’re constantly getting more safe. There are hundreds of dedicated professionals constantly working towards a safer industry. In the posts to come, we’ll provide news updates, explain how manufacturers and parks ensure rider safety, debunk safety myths, and give insight to the world of safety in the amusement industry. We hope you enjoy the (safe) ride!

Sources

# Source
[1] IAAPA Ride Safety Report 2018 https://www.iaapa.org/ride-safety-report
[2] “How Dangerous is Lightning?”, National Weather Service  https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-odds
[3] Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices https://www.astm.org/COMMITTEE/F24.htm

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