Jump, Dive or Slide? How Dangerous are Your Play Features?

Schlitterbahn's "Verruckt" waterslide is taller than Niagara Falls.
Schlitterbahn’s “Verruckt” waterslide is taller than Niagara Falls.

Aquatic play features are getting more extreme. Schlitterbahn’s new waterslide, Verruckt (German for insane) is taller than Niagara Falls. Action Park has reintroduced their infamous Cannonball Loop this summer with Sky Caliber. Thrill seekers can find new rides and slides around every corner.

If you’re looking to attract more patrons this summer you may be turning to aquatic play features.  The list of available options is fast growing. Perennial favorites like waterslides and diving boards are now complimented by inflatables, climbing structures and surf simulators. Before you add paddleboard yoga to your program guide, give consideration to the associated risks, and who’s going to mitigate them for your facility.

When opting for an aquatic play feature, it’s essential to make sure your entire staff is ready to play the role of the wet-blanket. Rules associated with slides, trampolines and spray features are set for patron safety, and they need to be followed closely. That may resonate with the management team, but the front-line staff tasked with overseeing these amusement features needs to be on board too. In-service training for staff needs to be regulated, repeated and documented.

Here are a few safety action items for you to consider when thinking about the risks associates with your aquatic play features:

  1. Follow the Rules – Manufactures have written detailed rules associated with your new play feature. They’re often extremely strict to afford their company extra legal protection. Follow their lead. Stick the manufacturer’s instructions and add extra barriers to injury where you see gaps in their policies.

  2. Train the Troops – In-service training is a staple for the aquatics community. When you purchase a new play feature, you have a new in-service topic to train to – do so regularly. Anticipate issues with young guests, teenagers, parents, and inexperienced patrons using your facility. Note and categorize issues, injuries and rescues. Use these real life examples to create scenarios that your staff can train to. Make them go through the motions of rule enforcement, problem recognition and emergency response regularly.

  3. Inspect What You Expect – You’ve made the rules and trained the staff, now make sure you’re getting the results you wanted. Audits need to be random and continuous throughout the life of your play feature. Complacency can be your biggest threat.

  4. Document Your Efforts – In the recreation industry people get hurt, even in the safest of facilities. In the even that someone does get injured at your facility, you’ll want to make sure you, your staff and your facility are legally protected from a liability lawsuit. Make sure you have thoroughly documented your rule enforcement, training and preventative maintenance. It will help.