Published: July 21, 2013 at 8:04 PMGood stuff.
Disneyland was, in my experience, very good about helping cast members spot potential danger situations before they arose. This came, primarily, from experienced cast members passing information down to the newbies on the job.
Like you said, placing the proper value on theme park employees is key to the retention of good ones. It's tougher at theme parks that only operate seasonly and thus can only employ part time workers; so the idea of a full time ride operator is a luxury parks like Disneyland have that others do not.
Published: July 22, 2013 at 9:06 AMI've never worked at a theme park, but I can imagine that they keep a close eye on how many riders are riding per hour. I'm sure the higher the number, the better. This was evident to my husband and myself on a recent trip to King's Island. We rode one of our favorite coasters, Diamondback, several times. Each time we were waited in line for the front seat, which gave us a lot of time to watch how the ride operators were handling themselves. They were moving SO fast that it actually worried us a bit. They seemed so rushed. The operator in the booth actually kept coming over the mic with what sounded like statistics of how many trains they got through in a set amount of time. I get that those statistics are important to them, but it made my husband and I a little uneasy.
Published: July 23, 2013 at 10:57 AMRobert's point about experienced ride operators is well taken. They make all the difference in the world, and as has been pointed out, with seasonal operations and consequent turnovers it isn't always easy to get them. On my first visit to Six Flags Great Adventure this year, most of the ride ops appeared to be foreign exchange students, which did not give me a great deal of confidence.
I find it interesting that most ride ops do not secure the restraints to the max. As long as the lap bar is locked and the seat belt, if applicable, fastened, they have done their job. Although it's highly unlikely that anyone will fall out of a ride with the lap bar locked, on occasion I have asked ride ops "Could you possibly push this down a little more?" and they invariably can and will. I feel more comfortable with the lap bar pushed down all the way, even if it means that I can't move.
It wasn't until recently that I discovered that the lap bars on Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure can be made to fit tightly. I survived over 50 rides on this coaster with the restraints at the minimum snugness necessary to keep riders in their seats. On my last visit, the ride op pushed the lap bar down so that it fit me tightly, without being asked. Later in the day, a completely different ride op also pushed the lap bar all the way down. The beginning of a new trend? If so, it's a good one.
A continuing problem at theme parks is ride ops trying to accommodate guests who are simply too large to safely fit into the restraints. I have watched ride ops, sometimes in pairs, exert as much force as they possibly can in trying to push a lap bar into locking position on people who really don't fit under the lap bar.
Published: July 26, 2013 at 9:46 AMHaving spent several years as an operator of thrill rides and roller coasters I can confirm that your comments about experience are spot on. I have dealt with a guest who had a stroke, another who broke their back because of an existing condition, several severe panic attacks and hundreds of people trying to sneak children who were too small on the ride. Not to mention dozens who jumped into restricted areas to retrieve mobile phones. An eagled eyed operator who can react calmly in an emergency can save lives. I had years of experience, a great deal of training and had passed numerous tests and yet what was I paid? The minimum wage of course!