Like other theme parks, the “happiest place on earth” occasionally becomes a not-so-happy place for its employees. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Walt Disney World for safety violations as a result of a fatal accident involving a park worker. This incident follows on the heels of another high-profile death in the park of a monorail driver, as well as numerous others over the years. Sadly, while on the surface these theme parks seem a safe place to indulge in entertainment and a few thrills, they have proven to have a dangerous side for employees and guests alike.
In the recent accident at Walt Disney World, park mechanic Russell Roscoe was killed while working on the Primeval Whirl rollercoaster ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Part of a team performing maintenance on the closed ride, Roscoe was struck and killed by a ride vehicle. Sadly, this is the second death of an employee working on Primeval Whirl. In 2007, Karen Price was killed while loading guests into one of the ride vehicles. The vehicle moved forward, striking Price and knocking her off the ride platform to the ground. In both incidents, Disney was cited by OSHA. In the 2007 accident, Disney was fined for five safety violations, and in response made safety changes to the ride. Despite these changes, they were again cited for four safety violations in the most recent incident. Among these violations, categorized as “serious” by OSHA, was a failure to maintain key safety sensors, as well as a “repeat” failure to install guardrails in areas of potentially dangerous falls. The guardrail violation had been noted previously at the Star Wars ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as in Disney’s monorails during OSHA’s investigation of the fatal monorail crash.
Unfortunately, theme parks have a history for OSHA violations as well as guest injuries. In 2007, OSHA proposed a staggering $117,700 fine for Six Flags Great America near Chicago, IL for 34 “serious violations” and 4 “repeat serious violations”. These violations ranged from unsafe storage of flammable liquids, to defective emergency brakes, and improperly marked and/or obstructed emergency exits. The same year at another Six Flags park, a teenage guest suffered massive trauma after a cable snapped on the “Superman: Tower of Power” ride, severing both of her feet. An investigation cited not only a faulty cable, but poor training of operators. More recently, last year ten guests were injured at Knott’s Berry Farm in California after two roller coasters collided.
While theme parks are a generally a safe place to visit, they are far from immune to accidents and even negligence. The very nature of the industry, complicated mechanics combined with managing a large number of visitors and employees, requires extensive attention to detail and safety. Unfortunately, too often important details vital to a safe working and visiting environment are overlooked either accidentally or intentionally. What may begin as an effort to save time or money, easily ends in injuries which prove far too costly for all affected. If you or someone you know has been injured while working or visiting a theme park or fair, contact an Illinois personal injury attorney who can protect your rights.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.