Feature Article - February 2007
Find a printable version here

Life Preservers

Considering safety from everyone’s perspective

By Allen F. Weitzel

Marketing & operations

A general awareness of safety needs to be reinforced through daily activities and actions. The general understanding of safety is important, as facilities communicate with guests directly and through the media. At an amusement park, for example, patrons want only the illusion of danger, not real danger. No one wants to visit a site that is considered unsafe.

The responsibility of the marketing department is to communicate to the public what the company does about safety. When all facilities are safe, the entire recreation industry benefits. Marketing departments may compete for customers, but recreational facilities should never compete on safety.

Operational departments often believe that safety procedures can occasionally get in the way of the day-to-day task of running the facility. Operational departments will be more responsive to requests from other departments, including the safety department, if the procedures they are asked to follow are simple and necessary.

If a safety department wants to implement changes within operations, it is best to get department buy-in during the off-season, when operational staff have time to give their undivided attention to a new program. The most effective way to gain operational department support is to implement safety techniques into daily tasks as the procedures are created.

Safety in the trenches

There should be one person employees can talk to about safety or go to when they want something fixed. Employees want to know that they will be protected if they verbalize their safety concerns, and they want to believe that the facility is safe for them and the customers they serve. It is not difficult to keep conscientious employees on the positive path using occasional reminders.

The main path for improving safety will be through motivating undisciplined employees who give the least possible effort.

Most employees will always believe that they are acting safely, even when they may not be. But even the underachievers want the facility to be safe—they merely do not believe, or are not aware, that it is their responsibility to implement safety. They need to be influenced to support safety.

Each employee is inspired by different motivation factors: morality, ethics, money, success, fear of discipline, popularity, sweat (how hard it is to accomplish a task), etc. Therefore, different motivation techniques must be practiced with different staff members.

Work to improve the credibility of the safety department so employees will listen, believe and follow the procedures. Impress upon employees that practicing safety is the ethical, popular and moral thing to do. Reward exceptional safety performance.

Many employees shirk a responsibility because they do not know how to do it, or because they think it will require enormous effort. Explain to employees the additional work they may have to do if they do not follow safety procedures. Let the employees know the downsides, to them and the facility, should a significant incident occur.

Employees who consistently fail to follow safety procedures should be purged from the company. Spend your valuable time with those who can improve the company safety record. Don't waste it on those who don't care about putting safety first. A single employee working outside of established safety procedures can shut down any operation.