Saturday, June 19, 2021

Safety in Numbers

Weighing your options – and your guests – in water park rides by Sam Baker, SR Instruments

2014 continues an encouraging trend for growth in indoor and outdoor water parks. Announcements of park upgrades, expansions, new high thrill rides and proposed new parks, all indicate a population enthusiastic about the fun and thrills available at family friendly venues. According to estimates from the World Water Park Association (WWA), more than 82.5 million guests will visit water parks this year.

With increased attendance comes an increased need for ways to accommodate different body types. Estimates vary regionally, but at least one calculation claims over one billion world citizens are considered overweight, with at least 64% of the US population earning that designation. Some of those people are going to be too heavy for some rides to safely accommodate, and park operators need non-confrontational, unbiased ways to address the situation.

Ride manufacturers are well aware of this reality. Their solution has been to supply park operators with recommended weight limits, especially for the most dynamic rides, and for multi-person rides.

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Many parks post height and weight requirements, with slide attendants trained to size up riders and politely enforce them. Some parks back up the policy by installing scales at a critical point in the queue to gauge the actual weight of a rider or a group. Insurance carriers and risk management companies have responded favorably to the implementation of scales to help enforce rider safety in this way, as have some OSHA and state health boards.

With the use of standard scales comes the potential for confrontation. To mitigate this and avoid guest embarrassment, readouts have to be covered or angled so that only an attendant can see it. However, this means the attendant is making a determination based on something that the guest cannot see. A less confrontational method is to employ colored lights that are triggered by the reading on the scale, with red signifying “stop” and green signifying “go.”

Some parks have taken a DIY approach, building mechanical scales from kits or installing scales designed for other environments. As mechanical scales contain many metal parts prone to rust, these aren’t always successful in the long term in the humid setting of a water park, whether indoors or outdoors. The wide variety of climatic conditions from Sacramento to San Antonio and from Denver to Dubai, not to mention the particular challenges of indoor parks, makes the selection of scales challenging and worthy of careful investigation.

A specialist provider such as our company, SR Instruments, will offer operators a choice of purpose-built scale systems specifically designed and fabricated for use in water parks. Look for a range of sizes to accommodate the desired number of riders, and for a choice of freestanding or flush-mounted scales. We’ve found from observing our scales used in the field that a red/green light system, used in conjunction with well-trained operations staff, will help take the stress and confrontation out of the equation. If the light stays green riders are good to go, if the light is red, adjustments need to be made to meet weight limits, and since people equate traffic lights with safety, guests don’t often complain.

In finding a scale system, pay special attention to design, materials and construction. Scales made of stainless steel with hermetically sealed load cells and water sealed electronics are ideal to withstand environmental variations. The weighing surface must be extremely tough, chemical resistant, and non-skid. These specifications will help ensure a product that is heavy-duty, long-lasting, and trouble-free for many years. Also look for a solid warranty, and readily available technical service.

Purpose-built scales can also be uniquely customized with software to support data collection, enabling an operator to track the system’s performance. The turn-down rate due to overweight/underweight and other operational details for each ride can all easily be captured by software. The information can be used to inform actions by the operator to help maximize rider participation and minimize rider disappointments.

Finally, look for a supplier that can provide financial flexibility if needed. With everything that is at stake in new attraction investments and guest satisfaction, modern weight technology for enhanced safety and guest accommodation shouldn’t be something to skimp on.

Sam Baker has been the Director – Global Development with SR Instruments since 2008. SR is a US manufacturer of scale systems, used in medical applications, as stand alone scales, for hospitals, veterinarians, zoos, aquariums, fitness centers, and waterparks.  Mr. Baker’s career has been in sales, marketing, and new business development.
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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