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October 21, 2016

Alton Towers: The importance of training

Merlin Attractions have been fined £5 million, with costs of £69,955.40 for Health and Safety breaches following the 2015 Smiler rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers. The collision was compared in court to a 90mph family car crash.

Visitors of the park put their lives in the hands of Merlin Attractions every day and should be able to relax and enjoy themselves safely.

On 2 June, 16 people were on board the £18 million ride when two carriages collided into one another, resulting in serious injuries and two young women each losing a leg. The park boss said that in its 35 year life, this is the worst incident to have ever occurred – but complications aren’t a rarity at the park. Within the last 3 years, there have been 32 accidents. And just one year later after the well documented crash, more than 30 thrill-seekers were left stranded on the Smiler for over half an hour. Luckily, everyone on the ride had an unharmed escape.

During the investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident on 2nd June it was revealed that there was in fact no error with the track, cars or control system. The root cause was a lack of detailed provisions for making decisions in the event of a critical condition. There was a failure to impose or comply with Health and Safety regulations. The training in place wasn’t robust enough to stop a sequence of mistakes made by staff working on the ride. Judge Michael Chambers referred to the incident as a “catastrophic failure” by Merlin Attractions, concerning basic Health and Safety measures.

Neil Craig, head of operations for HSE in the Midlands stated

“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.”

With the disaster being down to a severe lack of training and an inadequate assessment of the risks, this goes to emphasise the importance of ensuring that everyone within your business is adequately trained. Whether you own a large theme park, local pub, hotel or shopping centre, it’s imperative that you implement and frequently update your Health and Safety systems and regularly train your staff. The aftermath of human error can have devastating effects on your employees, the public, your revenue and your reputation.

According to the HSE, training will:

  • Improve your employees competence in Health & Safety
  • Help your business avoid the distress of accidents and ill health
  • Help avoid the financial consequences and occupational ill health

The consequences of the Smiler disaster have resulted in a damaged reputation, lack of trust and an estimated loss of £500,000 during the time the park was closed. The owners claimed that there has been a slight increase in visitors over the summer period, but numbers are still considerably lower than those before the crash.

The question posed is if Alton Towers had taken the time to have a detailed and adequate Health and Safety plan in place, to adequately train its employees and to carry out the required maintenance on the ride, could the heart-breaking tragedy have been avoided? Whether you’re a new business owner or just seeking the very latest Health and Safety training provision, Shield Safety Group have a wide range of courses spanning multiple topics — helping you to achieve full workplace compliance or boost your own career.

Our courses are accredited by our training partners, Chartered Institute for Environmental Health and Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance, as recognised qualifications that contribute towards professional development. We can even write courses specifically for you to incorporate real-life examples.

Delivered at our purpose-built training centre in Manchester or at your own location, each course is delivered by an experienced industry expert in a way that makes it as much about fun as it is about learning. We also have eLearning courses through CPL and CIEH for added convenience to give you and your staff the ability to complete essential training in your own time and location. Some of our popular courses include:

Level 3 Health & Safety in the Workplace

Level 4 Managing Health & Safety in the Workplace

Level 2 Award Principles in Risk Assessment

Level 3 Fire Safety Risk Assessment and Control

Emergency First Aid at Work

Level 3 Award in Food Safety

Level 4 Award in Managing Food Safety

To find out more about the type of courses we can offer or to book a place, visit our training page or call us on 020 3740 3744.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email hello@shieldsafety.co.uk.