Disney, Amusements and ASTM Standards
An Interview with Greg Hale, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Disney’s Greg Hale, a longtime member of ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices, talks about technology, safety, standards — and more — at his company’s entertainment venues.
In your role at Disney, you work to bring advanced technology to the company’s parks and resorts worldwide. What advancements in technology — for amusement rides and in other areas — have been made in the last few years? How have standards been a part of this work?
One of the things that Disney and other large companies that are members of F24 have agreed to do is share our safety best practices even though we are a very competitive industry. When it comes to safety, we want to make our knowledge available to the rest of the industry so that we all can be safer. There have been lots of innovations and new technologies over the years that have been developed by one company and then put into the standards to make them available to everyone.
Our history of leadership in safety technology dates back to the introduction of the first steel-track rollercoaster, Matterhorn Bobsleds, at Disneyland® Park. We helped develop standards specifically addressing stress levels allowable for steel and load cases and how you calculate the safe allowable loads and forces on a steel rollercoaster. Similarly, we helped frame standards for redundant computer control systems over the years that have been developed and are now common practice in the industry for redundant controls.
ASTM standards are flexible, to allow new technologies to be developed, adopted and incorporated in new rides and devices. For example, there are a lot of new amusement devices coming out of countries like New Zealand. Companies in New Zealand have come to ASTM F24 to have us develop standards so that emerging amusement devices can have safety standards in place before they are replicated around the world and potential accidents or problems occur. To meet this need ASTM is developing a set of hazard analysis and evaluation criteria that can be applied to any emerging technology before any ride-specific standards for that particular technology can be developed.
What is the role and significance of standards from ASTM International Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices to the industry both nationally and internationally?
The use of standards by the amusement industry allows the collective knowledge of what constitutes safe rides and attractions in design, operations, maintenance and inspection to be incorporated into a set of minimum safety requirements that the world can follow and be assured of reaching a minimum level of safety. The standards are vital, whether it is a manufacturer or operator that is just starting out in the amusement industry or an experienced manufacturer or operator that is trying to improve and wants to make sure they are using the latest best practices.
The ASTM International process is an active one with more than 600 members on the F24 committee alone. This diversity of thought allows for continuous improvement and enhancement of standards as new rides, attractions and technologies become available or as incidents and learnings happen that need to be incorporated to prevent them from occurring in other places. The ASTM F24 committee is the place to collect that knowledge and share it to help make the amusement industry safer worldwide.
What are the goals of F24.80 on Harmonization, which you lead? How is its work important for amusement parks and standards groups around the world?
My goal as chairman of Subcommittee F24.89 on Harmonization is to work with countries around the world that have their own standards to incorporate their knowledge with the collective knowledge of the ASTM F24 committee. That way, there is one set of standards that could be followed anywhere in the world. This approach enables one set of standards incorporating some unique country requirements rather than each country having its own that may not include all of the minimum safety learnings and requirements that are a part of Committee F24’s standards.
The goal of F24.80 is to allow countries to have some unique requirements for their country, such as different electrical or structural codes or other requirements that need to be adapted; it allows them to adopt the base of the ASTM standards while staying current and without having the administrative burden of having to go through and revise their standards every time the F24 standards change. ASTM also carries the administrative burden for other countries of translating standards into other languages, including French Canadian, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.
Accessibility for guests with disabilities is one of your professional responsibilities. What has Disney been doing recently to make its parks and resorts accessible and safe? Do standards play a part in this area?
Accessibility and safety go hand in hand, which is one of the reasons that my role at Disney includes both of these areas. Our goal is to make our experiences accessible to everyone, so that includes a wide range of people with differing abilities. The ASTM standards are critical to maintaining the safety requirements to participate, and the goal is to allow the guest, who best knows their own abilities, to make the determination as to which experiences they can participate in as long as they can meet the ride safety requirements. However, this approach does present a challenge for dynamic rides because the standards cannot dictate wheelchair strength and frequency of inspection, unlike the ride structure, which typically undergoes daily, weekly, monthly and annual inspections and has been calculated to meet ASTM strength and g-force requirements. For less dynamic rides, individuals can participate in their wheelchairs or, where possible, transfer into a ride vehicle if the ride may not be able to accommodate someone in a wheelchair.
Greg Hale is chief safety officer and vice president, worldwide standards and auditing, with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Orlando, Fla. Hale leads a global team of ride design, operations and maintenance professionals responsible for theme park safety, accessibility for guests with disabilities and technology advancements. An ASTM International member since 1989, Hale works on Committees F15 on Consumer Products and F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices. In 2010, F24 presented Hale with the Richard H. “Doc” Brown Memorial Exceptional Service Award for his contributions to improving amusement safety, for his technical expertise and for his work in promoting the use and adoption of F24 standards internationally. He is chairman of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions International Standards Harmonization Committee and has served as on the IAAPA board of directors. He is also a member of the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers International Educational Advisory Board and of the National Safety Council, where he serves on the board of delegates and is a former board of directors member. He has received such industry awards as the IAAPA Outstanding Service Award and the Public Affairs Award and the NSC Distinguished Service to Safety Award.
This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.