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Disney Closes Rides after Citations

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

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M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e is in big trouble with C-a-l/O-S-H-A.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has slapped seven safety citations and $234,850 in fines on The Walt Disney Company after a contract worker was seriously injured in a fall while performing maintenance on a ride at Disneyland.

The worker fell more than 20 feet last November while working on the exterior at Space Mountain, a space-themed, steel, indoor roller coaster that opened in 1977.

The 58-year-old theme park, in Anaheim, immediately shut down that ride and two others, although one has since reopened.

Space Mountain
Lyght / Wikimedia Commons

A worker cleaning the exterior of Space Mountain at Disneyland Park suffered broken bones after falling between 20 and 30 feet in November 2012. Park officials now face safety penalties stemming from the incident.

Cal/OSHA says the Anaheim, CA-based company failed to complete fall-protection reports, provide proper anchorages for contract employees, and adequately correct safety hazards on the exterior of Space Mountain. The agency said the company had known of problems with Space Mountain since 2006.

The citations—three willful serious, one serious, one repeat, and  two general—were issued Friday (April 12). Disneyland then closed the rides over the weekend “out of caution,” reports said.

Suzi Brown, Disneyland Resort's director of media relations, said in an emailed statement late Tuesday (April 16): “We have received notification of the citations and are working with OSHA to fully review them.”

Space Mountain Accident

The Nov. 21, 2012, incident at Space Mountain spurred a five-month investigation.

A 37-year-old subcontractor was cleaning the exterior of the indoor roller coaster from a boatswain’s chair when he fell 20 to 30 feet down the structure, according to Cal/OSHA.

State regulators say the employee fell when an unapproved anchorage point failed.

The worker, who was not identified in reports, reportedly suffered a broken leg and several other broken bones in the accident. He was an employee of HSG Inc., a building curtain wall cleaning and maintenance contractor in Southern California.

HSG Inc.

The seriously injured worker was an employee of HSG Inc., a building curtain wall cleaning and maintenance contractor in Southern California.

“During the investigation, the Division learned that Disneyland Resort had completed ‘Fall Protection Assessment Reports’ in August of 2006 and failed to adequately correct these known fall hazards that existed on the exterior of Space Mountain,” Cal/OSHA said on its website.

Disneyland also failed to have approved anchorages or approved tie-backs for contract employees to attach to, when performing scheduled exterior building maintenance, the safety authorities said.

Ride Closures

In the wake of the Cal/OSHA citations, Disneyland Resorts shut down Space Mountain, Soarin’ over California, and the Matterhorn on Sunday (April 14). The Matterhorn has since reopened, reports say.

Brown told media outlets about the voluntary ride closures and said the company was committed to safety.

“We constantly strive to maintain a safe work environment for our cast members and contractors—and we are reviewing certain protocols,” Brown told CBS News. (Park employees are known as “cast members.”)

It is unknown how long the other park rides will remain closed. Both are popular attractions, but both are aging.

The dome of Space Mountain received a fresh coat of paint in 1997, but the ride was not otherwise upgraded until April 2003, when Disney suddenly closed it. Reports at the time said the ride had become unstable and the track would need to be replaced. It was reopened after a major refurbishment in July 2005, two days before the park's 50th anniversary.

Soarin' Over California, a simulated hang glider attraction, opened in February 2001.

The Matterhorn, which opened in 1959, is composed of two intertwining steel roller coasters and is described as the first tubular steel continuous track roller coaster ever constructed. The ride closed for six months in 2012 for refurbishing. The exterior was painted, repairs were made on the interior, and the ride's bobsleds were replaced.

Disney did not say why it closed any of the rides.

Costly Penalties

Cal/OSHA issued Disneyland three willful-serious citations, each carrying a proposed fine of $70,000, alleging:

  • Failure to implement and maintain all the required elements of its Injury and Illness Prevention Program, including correcting unsafe work condition and work practices;
  • Failure to provide guardrails on all open sides of unenclosed elevated work locations more than 30 inches above the floor, ground or other working areas of Space Mountain; and
  • Failure to have either a swinging gate or equivalent protection on exterior platforms with access provided by ladderway on Space Mountain.

Authorities also hit Disney with a serious accident-related citation, carrying a $22,500 penalty, for failing to provide independent anchorage for support lines and safety lines on Space Mountain.

Space Mountain
Alton / Wikimedia Commons

The Space Mountain indoor roller coaster was closed after Cal/OSHA issued citations.

“Disneyland Resort allowed employees of HSG Inc. to connect support line(s) and safety line(s) to unapproved anchorages when they cleaned the exterior of Space Mountain from boatswain’s chairs and controlled descent apparatus,” the state agency said.

No Written Assurance, Procedures

CalOSHA says Disney also failed to provide HSG Inc. written assurance that all of Space Mountain’s safety devices and equipment met regulations for all window cleaning operations before the work began.

In addition, the company did not have a "Operating Procedures and Outline Sheet" for the structure as required by law, according to the state agency.

The general citation for those alleged hazards carries a $675 fine.

Disneyland was also issued a general citation, carrying a proposed fine of $450, for failing to ensure that written inspection and maintenance records for the HVAC system on the Space Mountain building were kept for at least five years.

Fire Extinguisher Issues

A repeat citation and a proposed fine of $1,000 were issued for failing to mount, locate and identify all portable fire extinguishers so that they were readily accessible to employees without subjecting them to possible injury.

Soarin' Over CA

Disneyland has temporarily closed the popular Soarin' Over California simulator ride and is "reviewing certain protocols," a spokeswoman said.

Cal/OSHA also issued a general citation with a proposed fine of $225 to Disneyland Resorts for failing to ensure that portable fire extinguishers in service had a current annual maintenance inspection check.

Fire extinguishers located on the exterior dome of Space Mountain had a last annual maintenance check of November 2006, Cal/OSHA said. Another fire extinguisher had no inspection tag or other indication that it had been annually checked.

Past Citations

In January 2011, Disneyland Resorts was issued seven "other-than-serious" and $2,600 in fines for workplace safety hazards, including those related to hazardous substances and processes, according to OSHA's database.

The Walt Disney Company d/b/a Disneyland Resorts has 15 days from the receipt of its citations to comply or contest the department's findings.

Editor's Note: This story was updated with a statement from the Walt Disney Co. at 11:10 a.m. ET April 17, 2013.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Citations; Fall protection; Hazards; Health and safety; Maintenance programs; OSHA; Steel

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