Just this month, a friend and I visited Trinbago Coney Island, Chaguanas after work one day. We’re not usually paranoid people but we had some questions as to the safety of the rides. Now, before I get into trouble, nothing happened. To the best of our knowledge theme park equipment of this type is not manufactured locally and we could easily assume that it’s probably second-hand equipment. Additionally we’re not even sure who regulates and inspects this equipment before putting it into use locally. After some digging, I put together this 2-part post, in an attempt to answer some questions on what we thought were the major attractions. Part 1 covers the lower intensity rides i.e. Ferris Wheels, Flying Chairs, Bumper Cars, Go Karts and the Bouncy House Zone. Part 2 will cover the higher intensity Vulcano, Tahtoo, Dancing Fly and Blue Shake rides.
There were 2 Ferris Wheels at the park, the larger for adults and kids and the smaller for kids only. This was 1 of the 2 rides we rode.
A Brazilian Ferris Wheel Manufacturer outlines the following guidance:
- Visual inspection of oil levels in gear boxes with more frequent lubrication in tropical climates.
- Avoid modifying structure by welding/making holes that may affect soundness of structure.
- Look out for deformation, dents, bends cuts & cracks
- Observe structural welds, beads, fittings and changes in cross section and discontinuities in general.
- Condition of paint work, rust spots must be immediately attended to.
Additionally, there were barricades to restrict access to the public from interacting with mechanical and moving parts of the both adult and kid ferris wheels.
When the roof of this ride begins rotating these chair swings take flight. We didn’t see it in operation to observe how fast it spins and how high patrons are lifted. The Wisconsin Administrative Code states that chair swings shall be provided with crotch straps or an equivalent means of restraint for passengers, which can be seen in the photos below. Apart from this, I havn’t found too much documentation specific to chair swings, but the general design of amusement park rides should encompass analysis of materials and components utilized in manufacture, as well as a fail-safe measures. Pertinent to this type of ride also, may be consideration of out-of-balance testing to confirm strength and stability of the machinery with uneven loading as proposed by Malaysian guidelines.
12 children and 1 adult were injured due to mechanical failure of a rotating swing ride in 2013 according to USA Today and in 2008, a 43 year old man was hospitalized in when he was hurled out of his seat into a fence as reported by AJC.
The thrill of bumper car rides comes from, as the name suggests, bumping into other cars. The exterior of these cars are padded to protect the vehicle and diffuse shock upon collision with other vehicles. The speed the cars travel are controlled and kept to a minimum, but still permits the driver to enjoy the jolt upon collision. Due to the jolts, 5-point safety harnesses are preferred over 3 point seat belts used in regular vehicles. Seat belts prevent the driver from ejecting from the seat or having to physically brace themselves due to sudden directional changes. It is interesting to note that the adult bumper cars my friend and I rode did not have seat belts…
Basic physics of a bumper car explains that it runs on electricity, carried by a pole on the back of the car that leads up to a suspended wire net above the riding area. This net is electrically charged and powers the cars. EC&M reports the death of 3 children in separate incidents due to accidental electrocution whereby a toddler, 8 and 14 year old came into contact with fences surrounding bumper car parks that became energised due to improper grounding. This reiterates the need for installation and inspection of such setups from competent personnel. Accidents due to electrical hazards have not been reported for users of the attraction but rather for spectators, however physical injury is labelled as the predominant injury for users. Thus far, the latter risk has been addressed as the Daily Mail has reported a ban in bumping into other patrons of this ride, as opposed to a total ban of the attraction in light of the former risk.
At the time of our visit, the Go-Kart section wasn’t opened. To think because of that I didn’t even take a picture…whomp.
A Canadian Amusement Park Safety Regulation provide some detailed information on safety standards for go-karts:
- Seat, back rest and leg area of every kart should be designed to retain occupants inside the kart in the event of a collision at front, rear or side of the kart.
- Hot engine parts and moving/rotating parts of a kart are shielded to prevents burns or entanglement of occupant’s hair, hands or clothing.
- Brakes are designed to enable driver weighing 90kg to stop from it’s max. speed within a 12m distance.
- Brake and throttle should be foot operated, easily recognised as to their function, return automatically to a non-operational position when released.
- Steering wheel, hub and exposed components between seat and steering wheel are padded and designed to minimize risk of injury to occupant in a collision, head rests and roll bars should also be padded.
- Kart should have impact absorbing bumpers or body parts on front of kart.
- Wheels should be enclosed or guarded so that one wheel cannot interlock with or ride over the wheels of another kart.
- Fuel tanks should be designed and mounted so that the tank will not rupture of the kart rolls over.
- Track should have a hard smooth surface, provide road grip sufficient to enable kart to be driven safely at max speed and to stop within stopping distance and is in a state of good repair.
- White/yellow lines should be used to demarcate inner and outer edges of the entire track.
- Barriers along every outer edge of the track curve, between track and obstruction or hazard within 10m from the track and along every entry/exit point.
- Barriers should be constructed to allow for kart colliding with it at max speed and safely coming to a complete stop, prevent kart from overturning or running over barrier and constructed of materials that will not readily ignite.
- Barriers do not encroach onto spectator areas upon collision.
- Track should be surrounded by a fence.
- 1 fire extinguisher to be kept in Pit Area and within 70m of every section of track.
- Driver should have sufficient leg length to reach brake and throttle from drivers seat.
- Hair longer than shoulder length should be tied and loose clothing secured.
- Refuelling should occur at least 20m from public area.
- Appropriate rules to be posted for public view.
Bouncy House Zone
At the time of our visit there wasn’t anyone in this area. The Inflatable Play Enterprise (TIPE) guidance on bouncy castles recognises the following hazards:
- Instability and blowing away in windy conditions
- Situations caused by a loss of pressure due to failure of fabric, loss of power to blower, litter blocking intake
- Falls from the structure
- Windows tearing or detaching
- Tripping-especially over anchorages
- Injury caused by boisterous behaviour, overcrowding or not separating smaller users from larger users.
- Access to dangerous parts of machinery
- Electrical hazards
- Inadequate means of escape in the event of fire
- Injury to users caused by inappropriate clothing
In response to these hazards, TIPE further details guidelines for: Design Considerations, Anchorage, Access or Egress, Blowers, Materials, Buying and Selling units, Inspection, Maintenance and Modification, Annual Inspection, Daily Checks, Safety and Operation.
Not mentioned in the list of recognized hazards are hygiene issues related to use of inflatables. A CNN Blog reports that the primary behavioural pattern of pre-school and elementary aged children in conjunction with their underdeveloped immune systems make them especially susceptible to illness, injury and infection. Therefore maintaining and sanitising these high contact play areas is essential. The British Inflatable Hirers Alliance, suggests periodically vacuuming the interior as well as cleaning inflatable play devices with regular washing liquid, water and a sponge. If the inflatable is soaked in the rain, storing on a pallet would allow water to drain, as storing a wet inflatable can lead to a build up mildew which may eventually cause staining.
Due to the ‘bleached-out’ colour of the graphic art on some of the inflatables at the Park, it may be safe to assume that these units have been exposed to the elements quite a bit. My concerns centre around the park’s inspection regime of these structures in light of their exposure to the elements.
Seeing that the inflatables are positioned on hard surfaces, the landing pads present at the entrance to each ‘castle’ is a good idea. However, the carpeting in the ATV course appears to be loose, even exposing an underlying wire, my concern here is the possibility of the carpet snagging on the ATV wheels, perhaps even the cord.
Of particular concern is the placement of the ‘lighting tower’ in the Bouncy House Zone as seen in the video below. I can understand the convenience of this location as it may be a cost saving measure to utilise 1 tower to provide lighting for this area. There exists evidence of the structure being anchored to the ground, though I’m not exactly sure how, as mulch covered the area. I also appreciate the white picket fence as a measure of access control, but neither its height nor its proximity to the scaffolding prevent any unsupervised child from thinking it’s a jungle gym. Additionally, there was no signage to give caution to users in this area, or perhaps not to raise undue alarm. Granted that all these controls are adequate on their own, its proximity to the Kiddie ATV course also contributes to my unease. Its position lines one of the bends of the inflatable ATV track and with the slower speed of these ATVs, collision is less likely to occur, but then again children are using this track and their drivings skills are not as developed…..so yes I think the possibility of collisions with the inflatable barricades are real. As such, questions about the integrity of the inflatable when a collision occurs may need to consider the possibility of users crashing into the lighting tower.
Additionally the Kiddie Bumper Boat area did not seem to be in use, the bottom of the pool was a bit dirty. Possibly the same cleaning regime suggested for the other inflatables could apply to this area. Ohio law for amusement rides stipulates that at least 1 of 2 bacterial standards for fecal coliform or E. Coli needs to be met in addition to maintaining free chlorine levels at least at 1ppm for aquatic rides of this type. If indeed it wasn’t in use at the time, it may have been a good idea to cordoned it off from the public, with the appropriate signage. The storage of the unused electrical equipment could have also been improved (see picture below).
Even amusement park equipment is well maintained, caution still needs to be exercised. A US news agency advises that the patrons should ensure that ride operators are taking care to ensure riders’ safety, paying close attention when the ride is in motion and observing restrictions due to rider size. One area of concern I identified was a possible language barrier between the Spanish-speaking operators and local residents, limiting their ability to effectively communicate with patrons. Added to this, EHS Today suggests that stipulated height requirements for rides may give a false sense of security, especially if your child is tall for their age. It’s really meant to filter out children who are too young for the intensity of the ride etc, as age has a part to play in behaviour and awareness.
Being vigilant for ourselves and especially our kids is important. The purpose of this post is to encourage patrons to be aware of the mechanical functionality of these rides and to use this info to protect themselves and their loved ones while using facilities of this type. It also aims to reinforce the responsibility of owners and operators of such establishments to ensure the provision of a safe environment to their patrons.
Hope I’ve given you something to think about. Click here for Part 2!