by Heather M Eichenbaum Esq
Are you watching what your park guests are wearing? Are today’s styles cool and trendy or an accident waiting to happen?
Fashion statements include baseball caps, low-rise jeans, flip flops, long scarves and untied work boots. Hairstyles – on both males and females – may be waist-long and in dreadlocks, braided or flying loose. Have you considered how these personal styles affect your park safety?
What happens when shoes that aren’t designed to withstand G-forces because they have no laces fly off at 80 miles per hour into the face of another guest standing beside a ride? Imagine the damage that can result from long hair, or a scarf wrapped prettily around a guest’s neck, becoming entangled in a rotating ride part. While probably not a concern on a carousel, gruesome and permanent injuries – or even death – can result when the ride is a go-kart, rollercoaster or other high speed ride.
So, how do you handle such style versus safety concerns? While entry to your park may be restricted only to guests wearing shirts and shoes, additional restrictions should be placed on guests who ride your attractions. To be both fair and meaningful, the restrictions must be undertaken with advance notice, signage and training.
First, changes to your guest style policy should be published on your website and at your park entrance. You don’t want guests entering your park – particularly a single price admission park – but then not being allowed to ride their choice of attractions. Place conspicuous notices advising that certain clothing and hairstyles may result in preclusion from some rides. Provide examples. For instance, you may establish a policy that any go-kart patron must pull their hair back and secure it under a helmet or hair net. You may require guests to tie their shoes or remove loose accessories before entering a ride.
Second, place signage at all rides that have such restrictions. The language should clearly state the restriction and the reason for it: the rule is for guest safety due to potential interference with the ride’s moving parts.
Finally, train employees to watch for potentially dangerous styles and to fix problems before allowing guests onto rides. Employees should know to look for long hair, loose shoes or accessories before a guest gets in a go-kart or boards a ride.
Designate a shoe storage location so others won’t trip over them. Pockets should be emptied before guests are allowed on any ride that turns upside down. Even loose change can be dangerous when it falls from a significant height or at great speed. Hats and glasses or sunglasses, while probably not dangerous alone, can fly off into restricted areas, leaving staff trying to navigate dangerous areas to recover them. Simple removal will alleviate this potentially hazardous situation.
Rules restricting guests’ personal styles may meet some resistance, however most guests will understand if they are aware of the rule before entering the property. Be prepared to fairly but firmly handle complaints by responding that your rule is intended solely to address immediate safety concerns. In short, safety must come before style.
Heather Eichenbaum is a member with Spector Gadon & Rosen, located in Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Florida. Clients include Six Flags, Steel Pier, IRM, Holiday World and Reithoffer Shows. Heather can be reached at +1 215-241-8856 or firstname.lastname@example.org