Now a pilot scheme for National Vocational Qualifications in mechanical rides should help to ensure that thousands of visitors can experience the thrills without any spills.
The new qualification, developed by the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA) in association with the Sports Council, is being tried out at five sites. To gain the certificate, 35 employees will have to show practical skills in loading and unloading rides, mechanical operation, health and safety, and customer care.
Ride operators at Thorpe Park all have a thorough on-the-job training, covering everything from health and safety to evacuation drill, but this will be the first formal recognition of their abilities.
Three-quarters of the 400 staff are seasonal employees and the NVQs will give them something to show for their summer job. "It's a way of demonstrating that we are training to a nationally recognised standard," said Dave Williams, the park's training manager. "The NVQs are an incentive for people who come to work here over the holidays so that if they go for a job elsewhere, at least they will have a piece of paper to take with them."
Drayton Manor in Staffordshire, Pleasurewood Hills at Lowestoft, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Butlin's Wonderwest World in Ayr are all participating in the scheme which, if successful, will become available to employees at all 92 BALPPA member parks next year.
"Ride operators are our front-line personnel," says Colin Dawson, chairman of BALPPA and general manager of Thorpe Park. "The objective of the NVQ is to make sure that they know what to look for and what action to take. We want them to be vigilant to ensure that nothing puts anyone on the rides at risk."
Thorpe Park's target audience is a family with two children under 12, and safety is paramount.