With the tragic death of a seven-year-old boy at a water theme park in Tyne and Wear, and the injuries suffered by three teenagers at a fairground in Cleveland making headline news recently, the issue of safety in the leisure and entertainment industry is uppermost on everyone's mind.
Simply insuring against such tragedies is not necessarily the answer, which is why risk management is making increasing headway as a value-added service in the insurance industry.
David Bromilow, a loss control manager for SLE Worldwide, explains why the mountain of regulation governing the running of theme parks is not enough.
He has extensive knowledge of the leisure park industry and is the only insurance-based risk manager who sits on the International Association of Amusement Park and Attractions (IAAPA) safety committee.
“The first thing I would look for when I arrive at a ride or attraction would be the safety and instructional signs. Are there enough emergency exit signs? Are these well lit? Are they in the correct position? It seems a simple enough task, but it is amazing how many times these things are overlooked,” he says.
“As I survey a site, I check for a variety of things: restraint systems, training procedures for operators and staff, what maintenance and inspection procedures are in place and padding on rides. I will look at a site from a variety of different perspectives: from that of the trainee ride operator right through to that of the caterer who supplies the fast food.
“The risks at these parks are not simply from the rides themselves – food preparation and hygiene procedures are just as important as the mechanical surveys on the equipment. I also have to bear in mind the employer's liability. A carpenter who would normally be conducting his business in a workshop, could be tasked at a theme park to climb 100 feet in the air to inspect and repair a track section,” he continues.
Taking the long view
Following an inspection, Bromilow will produce a report. This may include requirements that must be implemented within a certain time-frame, and he will make recommendations.
“My report will be given to three people: the underwriter, the broker and the client via the broker,” says Bromilow.
Business should be booming – the UK amusement park industry is growing rapidly. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is visited by between seven and eight million people each year and is listed as one of the top ten amusement parks in the world, in terms of attendance figures.
Even small parks have more than 100,000 visitors a year. The increasing demand for ever-more sophisticated entertainment means that minimising risks is a priority.
SLE claims to be unique in its methods. Not only does Bromilow and his team adhere to the traditional role of surveying and assessing the risk, but he also provides “loss control bulletins”. These comprise loss control concepts and guidelines relevant to the SLE book of business. The information is drawn from surveys, loss histories and information from the field.
“By collating and distributing this information to the clients, it helps them to gain an overall picture of the area in which they operate,” he says.
“In the past we have also sponsored a training programme organised by the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions. It covered all aspects of health and safety and was developed specifically for theme park operators.”
The industry is very well policed.
First, the amusement park owners work closely with Health & Safety Executives, who have a standard code of practice for fairgrounds and amusement rides. While this is not defined in legal terms, any breach of the code would be viewed very seriously by the law courts.
Second, all amusement and theme parks are governed by the Amusement Device Inspection Procedure Scheme. This ensures checks on electrical, structural and mechanical surveys and safety systems are completed each year by independent engineers. If a new ride is commissioned, it will make sure that the initial designs are subject to a review by an independent engineer and that the rides comply with a series of function and safety tests.
By providing additional services to those traditionally associated with a risk manager, developing relationships directly with the clients, and having extensive expertise in his chosen field, Bromilow is one of the new type of risk managers emerging within the insurance industry.
“Risk management improves insurability and safety through compliance with relevant guidelines, standards, and the observance of other relevant measures. Put in its simplest terms, it minimises the frequency and severity of claims,” explains Bromilow.