Last night, the Orlando Fire Department was called out to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. An employee working on the Revenge of the Mummy ride fell from a ladder, and landed on a platform. Rescue workers took the employee to a local hospital to be evaluated. Though it appears the employee is going to be OK, this most recent accident only highlights the risk of injury and even death that employees face at theme parks. After a rash of employee accidents over the summer, workplace safety is becoming a growing concern for theme park workers.
The most publicized accident over the summer was the untimely death of Disney monorail operator Austin Wuennenberg in July 2009. Austin was operating a monorail train during a night shift, and was killed when the train he was operating collided with another train. Unfortunately, Austin was not the only Disney employee to lose his life over the summer. In August, stunt performers from two separate Disney shows, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and Pirates of the Caribbean – Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial, each lost their lives. Anislav Varbanov suffered a head injury while rehearsing for the Indiana Jones show, an injury which later claimed his life. Fellow stuntman Mark Priest broke his neck while performing in the Pirates of the Caribbean show. Mark ended up losing his life several days later.
Employees were also injured at other Florida theme parks over the summer. In July, an employee was seriously injured after being struck head-on by the Dueling Dragons roller coaster at Universal Studios in Orlando. The employee, who was doing a safety-inspection of the ride, was unresponsive after the accident and suffered multiple fractures to his head. At Tampa’s Busch Gardens, an employee was injured when he fell 35 feet from the Skyride and landed on his back. The employee suffered a vertebrae injury, but fortunately was not paralyzed as a result. With three employee deaths at Disney and several injuries at other theme parks during the summer months alone, one can’t help but wonder if the safety regulations in place are sufficient to protect employees. I have written consistently about the need for federal oversight of the parks for the protection of visitors. Now it seems that employees increasingly need protection too.
For my posting on theme park injuries during the second quarter of 2009, please see my blog entry at: http://orlando.injuryboard.com/defective-and-dangerous-products/injuries-on-disney-rides-and-attractions-second-quarter-2009.aspx?googleid=270352