Feature Article - February 2007
Find a printable version here

Life Preservers

Considering safety from everyone’s perspective

By Allen F. Weitzel

The view from the top

Any executive leader wants to satisfy the organization's needs without sacrificing safety.

At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a 99-year-old seaside amusement park featuring a variety of rides, including two National Historic Landmarks and a wooden roller coaster built in 1924, Vice President of Operations Tom Canfield believes that safety means never having to stand in front of the media to explain why an accident happened.

It starts with observation skills. When managers are in the park, they should look for hazards. Many guests come through your facilities every day, and that constant wear and tear can change the safety situation. Staff should watch for loose trash on which people can slip, kids playing on queue rails, uneven pavement and so on.

Of course, management also should observe employees to be sure that they are following proper procedures. A facility may have excellent procedures, but if employees are not properly trained, safety suffers.

Don't forget to observe the guests, too. Management should be able to predict whether a problem might be brewing due to such factors as alcohol, gangs or people acting too rowdy.

Safety must be a top priority. If someone were to get seriously hurt, the media would likely jump on the story. With that kind of publicity, attendance will drop, regardless of who is to blame. No one wants that to happen.

Management responsibility

For managers, safety can be a scary, all-encompassing task that cannot be ignored, but never seems to end. It carries a big responsibility and terrible consequences if not properly handled.

"Middle management knows the importance of safety, but it is difficult to get employees motivated or involved," said Donna Raphael, a veteran resale director. "Safety meetings are often boring. Employees already believe they are being safe. It's important to train the staff to bring issues to the forefront. Management must not downplay safety systems, meetings or procedures. Management must always support the implementation of safety in their department and the organization."

Managers must be reminded of their obligation to do the right and legal thing. Otherwise, they should know that they could be held accountable for safety mishaps.

The weight of success for safety rests with middle management, who must train employees to incorporate safety into all that they do.

For example, at an amusement park, one key to safety is training ride operators and others who come into contact with guests, according to Joseph Zukin Jr., a former park owner and industry expert. "After that, there is a lot of common sense in assuring and stressing safety in an amusement park," he added.