In 2020, COVID-19 presented unique challenges for park operators. The extended closures impacted the attractions industry in unprecedented ways from revenue losses, employee furlough, to reevaluating park safety and cleanliness measures.
For many parks and family entertainment centers, going beyond a 12-month shutdown demands a more robust approach to ensuring park operational readiness. Significant time has passed with little to no maintenance, and in some cases, major staff turnover. Changes in staffing can create safety risks due to a lack of historical knowledge of how to properly maintain a ride.
To ensure a safe reopening, the following steps will outline a process for park operators to use as guidance in their journey to resuming operations in the new normal.
Assemble a skilled and competent team
The quality of your operational readiness team needs to be considered as likely staffing has undergone major changes throughout the past year. Operators must ensure their team is knowledgeable, trained, and competent in their ability to manage assigned duties.
This team should include diverse stakeholders to review pre-requisites and project deliverables. This includes but not limited to engineers, operators, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, and the maintenance team. Establishing an open communication channel to review milestones and guiding project goals to be met on schedule will empower stakeholders to streamline progress.
In the case of a prolonged shutdown period, staff training programs may have to be revisited for both new and returning employees. Review your current training method and determine if it meets the requirements to fulfill this inspection process.
Review attraction manufacturer documentation against ASTM standards
The ASTM standards F770 and F1193 state that manufacturers should provide specific documentation related to maintenance and inspection for each attraction. Reviewing the ride manufacturer documentation against the ASTM standards will ensure all maintenance processes and planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedules are current and up to date. This exercise will reveal whether the internal/external inspection processes and licenses are valid.
What happens in the case of having limited to no documentation? Consult with the ride manufacturer and gather the relevant information pertaining to the attraction. This information includes user manuals, electrical wire diagrams, and maintenance manuals.
Review manufacturer documentation against current maintenance records
With the manufacturer documentation ready, it is time to review it against the current ride maintenance records to maximize safety. It is important to ensure the information is valid before checking programs, standard operating procedures, risk assessment protocols, and training records.
Once documentation is reviewed and both the internal and third-party inspection teams are onboarded then it is time to organize a re-commissioning schedule for each attraction as they return to operation. The preparation completed now will serve to improve the final process in this guide.
Perform an in-person site inspection
Entering the park and facilitating the ride inspections will require some extra considerations during a pandemic. Proper COVID-19 personal protective equipment or “PPE” is essential to be worn such as guidelines of wearing a mask, frequent hand cleaning, and respecting physical distancing measures. It is important to have this discussion with the park owner beforehand to understand their specific safety requirements.
During a pandemic, social distancing is recommended when working alone. In this case, where large and complex machines are involved, it is recommended to work in small teams that remain separated but still within close proximity for communication purposes.
The owner is responsible for delivering trained personnel to operate the amusement rides during the inspection process. The inspectors should carry out their duties while developing a weighted system to determine which rides deserve priority for maintenance (described as Low, Medium, High). This will provide clear recommendations for the owner to determine how the maintenance budget will be allocated.
Check-in with the authority having jurisdiction
After the inspection is completed, the authority having jurisdiction will need to sign off and review whether additional electrical, fire, and life safety requirements are met. In British Columbia, this organization is Technical Safety BC but your local AHJ can be easily found through an online search engine. This organizational body is concerned with the enforcement of codes and standards. Do not feel they are working against your goals, in fact, they want nothing more than to support your plan for reopening safely.
After completing the inspections and performing the planned maintenance for each attraction, the amusement park can be ready to open for business. If you need support with organizing a competent engineering team for inspections, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
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