View Full Version : Accidents in Haunted Attractions

Mike Goff
11-04-2011, 08:57 AM
The 2011 season manifested many of the inherent dangers of the Haunt business. The hayride industry was hit exceptionally hard. It does no one any good to point fingers and play the blame game. Distancing ourselves from those affected will not change the fact that these things happened, and will continue to happen. Rather than looking upon the incidents with righteous indignation, I believe that we should examine the root of the problem that plagues almost every haunt in the industry. If you think that bad things canít happen to you, you are fooling yourself, and here is why.
What is the root of the problem? Lack of communication between management and staff, and vice versa is a dangerous and costly thing. I believe that we are all guilty to some degree. Do we need legislation to force us to practice common sense? Are we even the ones guilty of ignoring common sense safety measures? Most of the time the answer to that question, would be no.
At our attraction, we have been very fortunate to have an extremely low turnover rate. We usually field between 85 and 100 employees, and hire 8 to 10 new people each season. This stability has afforded me the opportunity to recognize trends. I have noticed that in almost every instance that something gets damaged it is the result of good initiative and bad judgment on the part of a new employee. Donít get me wrong, I think that actors bring fresh ideas to the table, and that their creative ideas should be fostered and not suppressed, Iím just saying that when they want to do something that falls outside their normal job description, it needs to be approved by management. A good example for me to give, would be dialogue. We like to know exactly what our actors will be saying to our customers, so all dialogue must be approved by management. This rule came about when an actor was asking young girls for their tampons so that he could make tea. That might be ok in some haunts but, I donít want it going on here. Do the actions of one rouge individual make me look bad? It can, if I donít correct them immediately. Whatís worse, bad behavior almost always escalates. If I let this go, they will probably graduate to chasing customers down a wet slippery hill, and eventually someone will get hurt. If this happens, I can say that I didnít know this was going on, but ultimately I am responsible for everything that goes on here.
What does all of this mean? For starters, we as haunters should have impeccable communication with all of our staff. We need to define everything. I donít open my doors until I have spoken to my staff as a group, each and every night. We talk about what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong. They inform me of what is going right and what is going wrong. I tell them to keep an eye out for rouge behavior and to report it immediately. I tell them if they watch my back, I will watch theirs, and I follow through with my promises. No one can be in two places at once and that is exactly why each and every employee has to fill the role of an extension of ďthe bossĒ. They canít do that if they donít know what the intentions of the boss are. Tell them. Preach to your people that all changes MUST be approved by management. Tell them why. Good initiative and bad judgment will cause property damage, bad PR, and injury.
This year, when we are planning our next season, and thinking about set design and props, letís remember that the human element is the most important, and sometimes the most dangerous part of the show.
A nice perk to perfect communication is that our shows will improve because of it.

Jim Warfield
11-05-2011, 07:29 AM
What you detailed and described sounds like a "perfect world" to me. Trying to make it one can only lead to improvements all around.

Mike Goff
11-05-2011, 08:52 AM
I agree Jim, we can never remove all risk from haunted attractions, and we will probably never have the perfect staff who consistantly follow the guidelines that we set, but the pursuit of excellence will minimize the risk.

11-05-2011, 09:00 AM
Well said, and sharing our good happenings and bad misfortunates are a way of educating ourselves. I think we need to do more of it this year here on this site.

I had to take props that were not approved this year from actors, also had one mix cold medicine with some so called "cough medicine" alcohol of some sort and was fighting with the props and banging into walls. Had a reaction and I had to get him out of there. This could have become a danger to himself, other actors and customers. Not a good thing.

Many lessons well learned this year. Think opening it up helps us all.

Jim Warfield
11-06-2011, 06:51 AM
Communicate what you as a haunt owner sees as permissable scaring/entertainment. Many potentual employees often see things differently than we do, style-wise, safety and not anticipating what could go wrong with something they think is just peachy!
I have also had to learn many things the hard way and was lucky that things didn't go from bad to worse, things any newbie helper should not be allowed to re-learn at our expense!