UK Company Fined $6.5 Million for Amusement Ride Crash

"The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride," according to HSE, which reported that the company made technical improvements to the ride and changed its systems afterward.

The company that owns the Alton Towers theme park has been fined $6.5 million with additional court costs for a roller coaster collision in June 2015 that injured 16 people injured, some of them seriously. The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident at the Staffordshire park and reported this week that Merlin Attractions Operation Ltd of Dorset pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc, 1974 and was fined £5 million with costs of £69,955.40.

Two women aboard the Smiler ride underwent leg amputations and others suffered severe injuries when their car struck a stationary car on the same track on June 2, 2015, and a judge heard evidence that, on the day of the incident, engineers overrode the Smiler's control system without the knowledge and understanding to ensure it was safe to do so. HSE's investigation found no fault with the track, the cars, or the control system that keeps the cars apart from each other when the ride is running; it found the root cause was a lack of detailed and robust arrangements for making safety-critical decisions. "The whole system, from training through to fixing faults, was not strong enough to stop a series of errors by staff when working with people on the ride," according to HSE, which reported that the company made technical improvements to the ride and changed its systems afterward.

"People visiting theme parks should be able to enjoy themselves safely. On June 2 last year Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd failed to protect their customers, they badly let them down," said Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands. "This avoidable incident happened because Merlin failed to put in place systems to allow engineers to work safely on the ride while it was running. This made it all too easy for a whole series of unchecked mistakes, not just one push of a button, to result in tragic consequences. Since the incident Alton Towers have made improvements to the ride and their safety protocols, and the lessons learned have been shared industry wide."

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  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - January 2019

    January / February 2019

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