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Six Flags – not OSHA – mandates seat belts for several attractions in California

This week, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags Magic Mountain have placed new seat belt restraints on three of their coasters that previously ran with only a lap bar restraint, apparently as a proactive safety precaution. The move was NOT part of a directive or order by CalOSHA, as previously speculated by several amusement park fan sites.

“It was not a mandate from the State of California. Cal/OSHA was told that Six Flag’s (sic) corporate office made the decision,” said Peter Melton, a spokesperson for the Department of Industrial Relations via an e-mail.

After the unfortunate incident at Six Flags Over Texas, you had to expect there was going to be changes to operations and seat design. Although, I know I speak for many fans in the community when I say, “This might be a bit excessive, especially considering the lack of incidents on the three known coasters to get the seat belt additions.”

The parks now do not allow riders to lower their lap bars, as originally reported by The Coaster Guy yesterday. This is to ensure the seat belts are all fastened and fitting. If a lap bar is brought down, attendants must reopen the entire train and repeat the process.

Those who have ridden the rides with the seat belts are already seeing significantly increased dispatch times (longer waits) and some have even reported pain due to the protrusion of the seat belts into their lower abdomens.

“Cal/OSHA inspected the seat belts after they were installed and found them satisfactory,” Melton said in his e-mail.

While the dispatch times will improve as guests and employees adapt to and refine the new policy, the belts also provide a much easier way for employees to gauge if a rider is too large to ride.

However, the reported “pinching” action of the seat belts against the lower abdomen and lap bar does beg the question, “Are these ‘improvements’ actually going to cause more rider problems than they were intended to solve?”

We shall see if this is a chain-wide mandate when the new season begins in spring. That’s when the seasonal parks will be reopen for their season. For now, only the two year-round parks on the west coast have confirmed seat belt installations.

This story was originally broken by CGA Insider, when they visited Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and spotted the alterations.


Featured on BBC News!

Yes, you read that correctly – I had the honor of being featured in a BBC News video released today about roller coaster technology and the  “plateau” some say we’ve reached. (I don’t think we have, by the way).

BBC Capture

You can view the whole video by clicking here.

Or, you can copy and paste this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24553630

The backstory behind this interview is just as intriguing –

I had already planned to attend Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s “Ghoulish Gathering” VIP event last Friday. When the tram dropped us off at the front entrance, I noticed a OMB (One Man Band) setup, with a man struggling to cope with the sound of the many rides in the area. In hindsight, I should have gone over to offer my assistance – but I digress…

When I asked the Public Relations person at the event about the cameraman, she immediately said, “Oh, he’s with the BBC…I should introduce you to him!”

Pinch me.

After we grabbed a bite to eat at the event, I got to talking with Richard, who quickly found out (and said), “I should interview you…”

You had to ask?

Careful to make sure I didn’t step on any known “land mines” when you do interviews like this, Richard slapped a lav mic on me, and into the sun he pointed me!

Now, it should be noted, that short of begging, I did my best to convince the segment producer to stay longer, so my Lost Parks Producer, American Coaster Enthusiasts Asst. Regional Rep AND all-around quality news source on all things coasters, Nicholas Laschkewitsch could arrive to be interviewed as well – but sadly, Richard had to leave before Nicholas could arrive. Thanks, BART Strike…

But, for now, it’s yet another milestone in my journey to be in the world of television. “Great American Thrills” has officially jumped the pond and gone international…WOW.