Safety Corner - July 2022
Safety Corner - July 2022
Amusement Warehouse Magazine

Safety Corner is a monthly column published in's Amusement Warehouse Magazine written by Worldwide Safety Group's president, Avery Wheelock. Please consider a subscription to Amusement Warehouse Magazine to read this and more about the Carnival, Fair, and Amusement Park Industry.

Every year, somewhere in this big world we all live in, there is at least one roller coaster Incident that makes national or global news. This month in the Safety Corner I would like to talk about roller coasters and the importance of performing daily, weekly, and monthly inspections.

First, I am not pointing to any manufacturer or the design of any ride, this is information  I hope will reduce the potential of one of our readers being mentioned in a negative “Breaking News” article.

First let's discuss Kiddie or Family Coasters. There are several different types of these coasters we see every day operating. Always refer to the manufacturer's manual for the ride specific inspection points. The areas listed here are for informational purposes and general inspection areas that are common to most any coaster.

There are numerous areas that are inspected daily, and one part of the daily inspections is to check all the track for proper connections whether they are pinned, bolted together or in some permanent installations welded together. These connections should be looked at to verify that they are properly fastened and that the track is aligned for a smooth transition from one piece to the next.

One style makes the track connections with slotted pins and wedges and some of the tracks have a beveled plate with slots for these wedges to go into. If you have this type of track, you should be aware that it is designed to have the wedge be inserted with the “R” key holes in the upright position so that if the wedge loosens during operation the “R” key will slide up onto the plate and stop the wedge from coming loose. If the wedge is installed with the holes down, the “R” key can slide under the plate, allowing it to become loose and possibly turn sideways potentially hitting a wheel, and  stopping the train abruptly. Again, always refer to the manual for proper installation instructions.

The track jack stands, or columns, should also be inspected for connections or proper grouting if permanent. Many kiddie coasters have threaded shafts for leveling the track supports. These threads can become worn during operation and if found to be worn to the point the threads are failing to support the weight, or allow the shaft to tip, they should be replaced. There is the potential for the track to drop and or break if the threads fail to support the weight.

Part of the annual  inspection is to verify the wall thickness of the track tubing, some trailer mounted coasters have a valley in the track that can hold water, creating the potential for internal corrosion and in some of the northern climate areas freeze damage can occur in the track sections from this water collection.

The trains or carriers is another area to inspect. It doesn't matter if it is an animal or a spaceship design or any other design, they all have seats, they all have restraints of some kind, and some have grab bars as well. The seat inserts and passenger areas should be free of any potential sharp edges or finger traps like breaks in the fiberglass or holes etc. Each position should be numbered for maintenance and inspection purposes.

The restraints should be inspected if they have a seat belt or a padded bar with adjustable positions or a ratcheting locking restraint. The restrains should be in proper working order and if any of the webbing is torn or frayed, they should be replaced. The same goes for the ratcheting lap bars.  If a tooth is broken and the restraint skips up, the rider position should be put out of service until repairs are made. The padding should be replaced if it is no longer intact, some kids like to pick at foam and tear it apart. If the padding is gone or has been broken, it is no longer able to function as intended and should be replaced.

These coasters typically have several different types of connections between the cars, and all are equally important to be inspected. The trailer ball and hitch connections are common and should be looked at closely to check for wear in the hitch connection. The hitch ball may be worn, or the locking mechanism could be worn, and the hitch could separate during operation if the right combination of wear happens. A quick way to check for wear is to pry up on the hitch and check for movement, if excess movement is detected, the hitch connection should be taken apart and further inspection of the components conducted. Always replace worn components so the hitch doesn't fail during operation and cause the train to stop abruptly on the track.

There are other types of connections also, and all should follow the same inspection procedure; pry up and check for excessive wear in the connection. Separate the connections if needed to visually examine the components. Another thing to check is for safety chains or cables between the cars at the connections. These are meant to keep the cars from coming off the track and hold the front up in the event of a failure. They should be checked for wear and proper connections.

The wheels on the coaster cars also should be inspected regularly, some manufacturers have wear tolerances, and you should be aware of them if you have one of those types of coasters. Some manufacturers may make a “Go” “No Go” gauge to check the wheels.  This is a tool you should have if the ride requires it. The wheels can cause the train to track differently and if not aligned properly, on some coasters can cause wear on the wheel housings.

Some coasters are tire driven, either in the track or in the train running on the track. The tires should be checked for proper inflation and tread thickness. Some drive tires are mounted on adjustable brackets and these brackets can wear or break during operation. The drive assemblies should be inspected for condition of the components and repairs and or replacements made if needed.

Some coasters are chain driven.  The chain pulls the ride up a lift hill and releases it at the top. These types of coasters also have a set of inspection points that should be monitored on a regular basis. The chain should be checked for wear and proper lubrication.  The chain lubrication is important to reduce wear on the chain, sprockets and all components involved in these types of drive systems.

The chain driven systems will have Anti Roll Back Dawgs on the train and the track will have notches or catches that the dawgs would engage in the event the chain stops lifting the train. These components should also be regularly inspected for wear and/or broken parts.

Barrier fence should be inspected for broken rungs or separations in chain-link.  If in a permanent park, the barrier should meet the minimum height of 42” with gaps that reject a 4” object. Larger coasters may require taller barriers. Always refer to the manufacturer for the proper size of the barrier. In most cases, these barriers have been set for years and we just need to check the condition of the fence.

Signs are an important part of the safe operation of any ride, device, or attraction and as I say in my signage class, there are only two people who read signs, lawyers and inspectors! But we need to have signs to warn our guests of the potential hazards of participating in riding the ride and to advise them of the rider restrictions set by the manufacturer. Remember to verify the height and or weight and age restrictions set by the manufacturer are posted on the signage at the entrance of the ride.

The coaster ride controls are also very important to test for proper operation.  They should be identified for function and purpose and prior to opening the coaster it should be run through at minimum of one ride cycle. To test all controls, several ride cycles may need to be run.  Always refer to the manual for ride operation instructions and test procedures.

If you have a coaster with a lift hill, you may want to have training on how to evacuate guests off the lift hill or even practice evacuating the coaster in a valley of the track so that in the event of an incident, your staff is prepared to perform an evacuation and know how to secure the cars.

It is important to prepare your employees and reduce the time of a guest being “trapped” on a ride. Just recently, an amusement park made national news because a ride doing exactly what it was designed to do “stop” in a safe position and then return to an unload position. Practice so your company is not on the news for an incident where people were “trapped for hours”. This touches a little on operator training that we have talked about.

I hope that you gained at least one piece of information from this short piece on safety and can help make our industry safer and better every day. I can be reached via email  or at 813-505-3938 for any questions or comments, please feel free to provide feed back to help me better communicate these safety related messages. Remember “Our World Revolves Around Safety!”

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