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BE SAFE, NOT SORRY

HSE experts caution parents about pitfalls in amusement rides in the capital

The recent unfortunate incident at Bounce Oman, wherein a young boy met with a serious accident while playing on a ride, sent shock waves among parents in Muscat. The moot question among most, however, remains unanswered: Are all rides in amusement arenas in the capital really safe?

The answer, unfortunately, may be an emphatic ‘no’ as two HSE (health, safety and environment) experts, who are also mothers, evaluate the current scenario at amusement parks in the capital and feel that much needs to be done to step up safety guidelines and operating practices.

Eng Nadhira al Hinai, an HSE expert took serious note of the lapse in safety precautions that led to the unfortunate incident. “Apart from providing safety equipment like nets etc at such venues, children should receive a safety induction prior to playing on any of the rides or using equipment, to ensure that they are aware of how they can manage different situations or emergencies, especially if left alone and with no supervision,” she said. The safety equipment should also be suitable and adjustable to fit every child’s body weight and shape, she added.

Some rides require age restrictions besides guidelines for people with certain health conditions, she pointed out and stressed that these need to be strictly enforced. “There should be punitive action for those flouting these guidelines – be it staff, parents or even children aged 12 years and above, since at this age it is considered that the child is no longer young enough not to make a decision and not be responsible for one’s actions,” she said.

She felt that the incident at Bounce could have been avoided or the impact reduced had there been a safety net at the bottom of the ride. Also, the management should have ensured the presence of trained supervisors, especially if the children allowed to use the facility were too young.

Nadhira, as an HSE professio-nal, has observed that there is, indeed, lack of proper safety measures in many entertainment areas in Muscat and across Oman in general. “I believe such incidents happen due to not employing HSE experts who are professionals in assessing the risks involved in different types of rides and play areas in Oman, especially within the body of authorities that grants approvals for such places to open and operate,” she said, adding that there was also a need to employ an emergency response team. This team, she said, should include a fire warden, first aid providers and trained attendants.

Echoing similar sentiments, Eng Samara Salah, director of training at Samara Training Services and a Safety and Risk Management expert, told TheWeek, “Before taking children for such rides, all parents need to do a thorough investigation and inspection of the facility. If they find anything wrong, they should immediately call the civic hotline 1111 – the response is very good, I myself have used it – or call the civil defence. We must remember that such incidents  can happen to your child or to anyone else’s, but if we all follow this practice and report unsafe conditions, things will be much better.”

Samara called on parents to inspect not only the premises, the equipment used and the rides, but also the type of people who run them as many venues employ untrained staff to operate rides.

“Operators need to take extra precaution when it comes to children because they belong to a very fragile group. The level of preparedness for emergencies and fire safety measures, too, need to be in place and signages regarding these should also be put up so that everyone knows what needs to be done in an emergency,” said Samara, adding, “It’s really challenging for managements to maintain the same level staff preparedness at all times.”

She also pointed out that often age restrictions for some rides are not followed strictly and in some cases safety belts are either broken or staff members are unaware about the consequences of running rides with damaged safety gear. Also, in most places, staff do not speak either English or Arabic fluently and so are not able to easily communicate guidelines to users, she added.

“If you ask me, as an HSE professional and mother, I would say that most rides in Muscat are not safe. I take full responsibility for this statement and on many occasions I have personally informed the authorities concerned. I have observed many hazards like sharp objects, exposed electrical cables, broken doors, and no one seems to be doing anything about it.”

She has often cancelled plans for her daughter after observing unsafe conditions, she said, add-ing that cases involving death or serious injury get talked about but many incidents involving minor injuries go unreported everyday.

Bounce Oman bounces back

Bounce Oman, in a statement to TheWeek, informed, “Bounce Oman is now open. All of our equipment is constructed, inspected and certified by independent third party experts. Our team is trained to operate in the venue by a third party authorised expert. We look forward to welcoming the Oman community back to Bounce.

The statement further said, “Safety is and has always been the number one focus of our business and our staff.

Across the 16 countries we operate, Bounce has sought to set the standard for international industry best practice
in safety. Each Bounce venue is constructed using the latest in Sports and Entertainment technologies and materials. Each piece of equipment comes with international safety compliance and certification. This equipment is installed by Independent contractors certified and experienced in the materials and equipment they install.”

It is mandatory at Bounce that staff have internationally recognised Level 2 first aid training (including CPR) prior to commencing work. In addition, staff receive internal safety and operational training, specific to the equipment in use in each Bounce venue. Over and above this internal training, each employee receives training and certification from independent equipment suppliers for relevant specialised features and activities, the statement added.