Protectors Of Thrill Seekers: Amusement Ride Safety Officers

Thanks to them, we can have fun without fear. Challenge trails a pair of amusement ride safety officers over three months as they go on their inspection rounds.
It is past midnight when they wrap up. It’s not uncommon for the BCA inspectors to start work very early in the morning or late at night so as to minimise disruption for amusement ride operators.

Daredevils, say hello to your guardians.

Mr Louis Ang and Mr Robbin Poh are executive engineers from the Amusement Rides Safety Department at the Building and Construction Authority. Their mission is to protect you.

Working in pairs, they make sure that the heart-stopping rollercoasters or kiddy choo-choo trains we take don’t rip off a limb, electrocute us or break our necks.

Sounds morbid? The fact is, bad accidents do occur in happy places worldwide, which makes these officers’ jobs more important than most realise.

The 17-person Department regulates more than 90 amusement rides in Singapore. Working in pairs, they conduct thorough inspections and smaller-scale checks throughout the year on their assigned rides, making them familiar faces to the ride operators. To avoid detection, they swap rides with their colleagues when they carry out “mystery shopper” visits.

The officers are out of the office once or twice a week to conduct ride inspections that include physical checks and audits of both operation and maintenance records. Even the tiniest details are not missed.

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At the end of an inspection at the Skyline Sentosa Luge, Mr Ang stops by a railing and sticks his fist through a gap to check if little children would be able to stick their heads through it. At the visitor counter, Mr Poh spots a photograph of a Luge rider; he points out that “the helmet should not be worn this way” and cautions the ride operator to ensure safety in future.

Once they’re done, it’s back to the office for administrative work. They also review designs for new rides, perform risk assessments, and interview key witnesses when accidents happen, among other tasks.

As one of the first to join the Department when it was set up in 2011, Mr Ang has inspected all the most exhilarating attractions, like the Transformers ride at Universal Studios Singapore. All officers go on the rides to spot potential problems as well as to gain a user’s perspective.

“Even if you have a fear of heights, you just have to manage it. Imagine it’s you and your partner in the ride – you cannot scream. It would be embarrassing,” says Mr Ang with a laugh.

A year and half into the job, Mr Poh, a former materials science researcher, says: “Things are never dull around here.”

But the job does come with some sacrifices. “I cannot enjoy a normal amusement ride anymore!” he quips. “I just keep on thinking about safety now.”

And some stress is inevitable. “It’s … knowing how serious it would be [if we didn’t do our job right], and feeling the responsibility,” says Mr Ang.

    Nov 26, 2014
    Bridgette See
    Norman Ng
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