What are the Hazards of Working in an Amusement Park?
July 17, 2020
Amusement parks, which have been closed for several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have started to reopen across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Thousands of thrill seekers have been waiting for the chance to jump on their favorite ride. Although amusement parks are about having fun, employees face many hazards, including intense heat, working at dangerous heights, and operating heavy machinery. Workers, as well as amusement park owners, can take measures to avoid workplace injuries.
Dangers of Working in the Summer Heat
Many parks have water rides offering a chance to cool off while having fun. However, most amusement park employees do not have the option of jumping in the water. Many of these workers are at risk for developing heat-related illnesses, particularly if they are required to wear character costumes or perform other tasks in direct sunlight. Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps and heat exhaustion, which, if left untreated, may lead to heat stroke, which is potentially fatal.
Muscle cramps are often the first indication of heat illness. Workers who experience severe muscle cramps should immediately drink water and move to a cooler location. If the body continues to sweat, heat exhaustion will set in. Individuals may start to feel nauseous and confused, while also experiencing a headache and fatigue. Other possible symptoms include a rash or pale, moist skin. At this point, it is imperative to move the individual to a cool location, offer water, and loosen tight clothing. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition in which the heart beats rapidly, the body temperature exceeds to 104 degrees, and the person may develop seizures or go into a coma.
Several years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated an incident in a Pennsylvania amusement park in which at least one worker in a character costume had to be hospitalized after performing shows in direct sunlight. As a result of the investigation, OSHA cited the amusement park owner under the General Duty Clause with a $7,000 penalty because the company failed to implement procedures to protect workers.
Because OSHA does not have a specific statute governing heat-related illness, it applied the General Duty Clause, which states that employers must maintain a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Furthermore, OSHA noted that the employer could easily reduce the risk of heat illness simply by establishing a heat illness prevention program, which should include shaded breaks and making sure that water is always available for employees.
Working at Heights
Any type of labor that requires a worker to perform a task more than six feet above ground may result in serious injury. Amusement park workers who inspect and maintain rollercoasters and other types of rides must scale dizzying heights regularly. In one example, a worker suffered a serious injury to an extremity while inspecting a 301-foot tall swing in an amusement park in South Carolina. When the injury occurred, it took several hours to lower the worker to safety. After launching an investigation, OSHA cited six serious violations at the worksite, resulting in a fine of $42,000. The injured person was a third-party contractor hired to inspect the ride.
Lower heights also present risk. OSHA fined an amusement park owner more than $140,000 after an employee was injured in a fall while performing repairs to the roof of a park shelter. The worker fell through a skylight onto a concrete floor, suffering serious injuries.
What Laws Govern Amusement Park Ride Safety?
There are various laws governing the operation of rides at amusement parks. Mobile rides are subjected to CPSC regulations, which includes rides at carnivals and state or county fairs. Fixed-side rides at permanent locations, such theme parks, are subject to state and local laws. OSHA has jurisdiction over the safety of employees at amusement parks, carnivals, and fairs. With respect to operating rides, OSHA provides fairly detailed guidance regarding lockout/tagout procedures.
These procedures are designed to prevent workers from improperly accessing ride areas where cars or equipment are still capable of moving. Without lockout/tagout procedures, it is possible for workers to be run over or dragged by moving cars. Lockout/tagout procedures also make sure that sources of electrical power are isolated to prevent electrocution.
How can Amusement Park Workers Avoid Injury?
Amusement park workers can avoid injury by participating in all available training and follow safe work practices for each piece of equipment with which they come in contact. Also, workers should be proactive and report any hazards or unsafe working conditions. Above all, workers should never enter a ride area while it is in operation. Workers who have any doubts of what is or is not safe should approach their supervisors and request additional training.
Employers should make sure that each ride has clearly marked safe areas where operators can stand while the ride is operating. All equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained. Keeping a log of all maintenance and inspection activities is a must and providing comprehensive training is critical. This area is often overlooked or ignored, as many employees are seasonal workers and English may not be their first language.
Staying Safe at Amusement Parks
In a typical year, amusement parks across the country attract millions of visitors, many of whom are willing to wait in long lines. Pennsylvania is home to more than 50 permanent rollercoaster rides scattered across 14 different amusement parks. New Jersey is home to Six Flags Great Adventure, as well as several smaller venues along the Jersey Shore, which have been popular destinations for years.
Visitors to an amusement park or carnival this summer should make sure to follow all posted safety guidelines for their own benefit, as well as for those who are working. This includes the new rules requiring face masks and social distancing, as well as instructions for entering and exiting rides. Workers at an amusement park must be alert for risks and hazards. Employers do not always fulfill their responsibility to keep the workplace safe. Employees experiencing a work-related illness or injury are urged to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP Assist Injured Workers
Workplace illnesses and injuries happen every day. If you were injured at work, the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP can help. If you need our assistance, please do not hesitate to call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.