Amusement rides maintenance

Amusement rides maintenance

18 April 2019 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ by Gianni Chiari /

This month Gianni Chiari tackles a paramount and inexhaustible topic.

Gianni Chiari /  Member of CEN/TC 152, ASTM F 24, ISO/TC254 Technical Committees 

On the subject of important safety aspects, we cannot fail to mention amusement ride maintenance. Although I don’t consider myself to be an expert in the strict sense of the term, as it were, I’ve had to write a good deal of operating and maintenance manuals during the course of my career.

Maintenance is a branch of engineering and as such requires a solid theoretical foundation coupled with a matching relevant experience. I would like to begin precisely by unpacking the latter statement, and you may have to forgive me if I tell you a little bit about my professional life in the process. 

As is often the case in life, sometimes we’ll meet people who exert a considerable amount of influence in shaping our future, who will open us up to new ideas and new ways of thinking. 

In my case, one of these people is international maintenance expert Francesco Maria Cominoli, an engineer who for several years had worked in maintenance consulting for multinationals across various sectors, quite often on tricky assignments. He later landed a maintenance consultant position for a leading Italian amusement park, during which time he developed a strong passion for rides, so much so that he continued to work there for years to come. 

Out of our friendship and thanks to his experience I was able to appreciate the crucial role of maintenance to a fuller extent. First of all, it is obviously important in terms of safety and secondly it is vital as a factor that affects profitability rather than costs, as is often thought. These concepts are very well described and clarified in Engineer Cominoli’s book entitled ‘La manutenzione si può anche fare’ (‘You might as well do maintenance’), a title that sounds like an ironic challenge. I sometimes read back through it and always find new answers to old questions.

In Italy, Europe’s second manufacturing country, there is a strong culture and high levels of professionalism when it comes to maintenance. We are also secretaries of the European Technical Committee CEN/TC 319 Maintenance through the UNI, the Italian Standardization Body.

Statistics from our industry conducted for years show that the incidents related with technical deficiencies are about 8% of the total causes of accidents. Unfortunately, when they do happen (fortunately only very rarely) they bear heavy consequences because they usually involve structural or mechanical parts. Recently, a serious accident in the USA, caused by the undetected corrosion of the structures, has dramatically brought the problem to the fore.

In recent decades, attractions have evolved a great deal, construction quality and manufacturing controls have become much stricter, at least for a certain type of manufacturing firms who do not see price as the sole competitive factor, allow me to emphasize this. At the same time, however, performance has increased considerably. The riders are always on the lookout for new thrills and larger doses of adrenaline. As a result, developers have been designing rides that can deliver greater speeds and faster acceleration.

This of course means load-bearing structures and mechanisms are being put under a significantly higher amount of strain. Without constant, accurate and adequate maintenance over time, wear and tear and corrosion can lead to major breakages with some serious consequences. These effects are already beginning to show today with the rides that were put into service 10-15 years ago, as revealed by intensifying inspections and NDT (nondestructive testing).

In the 1990s the British began to develop a system of inspections services headed by the NAFLIC (National Association for Leisure Industry Certification) which then gave life to the ADIPS (Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme) to guarantee higher standards of safety in leisure equipment. The system of checks and maintenance was greatly increased, significantly reducing the fortunately relatively low number of accidents, a number which is always too high in the perception of the media and the public opinion.

At that time work was in progress on the future European standard EN 13814 which also benefited from the important experience of NAFLIC and ADIPS.

You won’t find an operating and maintenance manual for amusement rides today that doesn’t feature a lengthy chapter on maintenance and nondestructive testing, and this is especially true for dynamic rides. These inspections and maintenance checks must be conducted with professionalism and punctuality, by specialized and qualified personnel only, otherwise the risk becomes too high and the consequences can really be disastrous both in terms of people getting hurt and in terms of damages to business.

I certainly won’t pretend the chapter on maintenance can be exhausted with a couple of pages. Consider this an introductory article and expect further insights to come.

Taken from Games&Parks Industry April 2019, page 82

Gianni Chiari /  Member of CEN/TC 152, ASTM F 24, ISO/TC254 Technical Committees and “Una Giostra per Tutti” project manager.