Amusement park industry initiates incident reporting system

Amusement park industry initiates incident reporting system

The amusement park industry has often been at odds with CPSC over the agency’s assessment of the rate of injuries associated with amusement park rides.

Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), a frequent critic of the industry, has proposed federal regulation for fixed-site amusement park rides. Markey has advocated granting jurisdiction over such rides to CPSC. CPSC currently has jurisdiction only over mobile rides.

Markey and former CPSC Chairman Ann Brown argued that CPSC’s data showed striking increases in injury rates at fixed-site amusement parks, and that CPSC needed to have jurisdiction over these parks in order to protect the public.

Markey had also called on the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) to research the risk of being injured on amusement park rides-especially on roller coasters. (1)

But when the BIAA reported back, their results did not support Markey’s contention that bigger, faster coasters were to blame for brain injuries to ride customers.

Now, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has initiated a voluntary incident reporting system, collecting the data through an independent auditing firm.

On June 20, IAAPA released the results of that system for the 2001-2002 period. The data is being published in the National Safety Council (NSC) publication Injury Insights. (2)

The report includes initial injury data from IAAPA’s nationwide incident reporting system and summaries of recent studies dealing with industry safety.

The data show that there is an estimated average of 2,486 injuries per year among the more than 300 million people attending fixed site amusement parks every year. National Safety Council President Alan C. McMillan said of the report, “The amusement industry has brought together numerous key safety documents in one place, and we are pleased to publish this information and make it available to all who are interested.” (3)

The report was written by Edward J. Heiden, Ph.D and Stephen McGonegal. Heiden is a former member of the CPSC staff, specializing in epidemiology. They write:

“Using the IAAPA survey results and other data, we estimate that there are about 460 U.S. facilities with one or more fixed-site amusement rides. Annual total attendance in 2001-2002 for this sector is estimated at 303 million. Based on the attendance and injury numbers, we estimate that there are about 2,500 fixed-site amusement ride injuries annually, or just over eight per million visitors.”

The authors report that their estimate is below that previously available from the CPSC National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). That system had estimated that there were 6,700 fixed-site ride injuries in 2001 (injuries that required hospital emergency room treatment.)

In comparing the results, the authors analyzed why the injury estimates were so different. They point out that CPSC’s August 2002 update on amusement park injuries reports a high level of statistical uncertainty relating to the estimate. The update noted a 95% confidence interval of + or – 43% around its overall amusement ride injury estimate.

They surmise from their own data that the risk of being injured on a fixed-site amusement park ride is 10 to 100 times lower than for most common recreational and sporting activities. For example, a person is more likely to be injured golfing, swimming or bowling than on a fixed-site amusement ride.

Another interesting component of the Injury Report is that faster and taller roller coasters do not necessarily have higher g-forces. Speed and height are not the only attributes that determine such forces. The design of the roller coaster determines the forces, and according to the report, designers and engineers control these elements to produce taller and faster roller coasters with the same or lower g-forces than older designs. (4)

(1) See CPSC Monitor, “Brain Injury Association Report Fails to Make Markey’s Case,” Vol. 8, Issue 2, February 2003.

(2) Copies are available at

(3) From a news release of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Alexandria, VA, June 20, 2003.

(4) “Safer by Design/Technology in Amusements,” National Safety Council’s Injury Insights, June/July, 2002.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Consumer Alert

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group