I’ve had a bit of fun poking fun at Merlin, but there’s clearly a serious issue about the UK theme park industry from how disunited it is. Here’s the website for the trade association for the UK theme park industry: https://www.balppa.org/ There’s nothing on the news page about coronavirus, but there is a page you can log into if you’re a member for news about coronavirus: https://www.balppa.org/about_balppa/safety-bulletins-2/ I don’t actually know what advice BALPPA are giving out to their members, but the way it’s being handled by the parks seems disjointed. Perhaps BALPPA are advising parks to stay open and some parks are ignoring the advice. Or perhaps they’ve advised parks to close. Or maybe they’ve just posted very general stuff taken from news sites. I’ll come back to coronavirus, but let’s take a quick look at how the theme park industry self regulates. The theme park industry has always been largely self-regulating, but this has become more significant over time. The trouble is that there might be a public outcry over something like The Smiler accident, but generally health and safety isn’t popular. A lot of people will talk about safety gone made, red tape, paperwork, jobsworths, common sense etc. If you’re a government and you want to make cutbacks, the HSE is a good place to start without there being much public backlash. Most people would rather see the government cut back on safety inspectors than doctors, teachers of police officers. The HSE was already struggling before austerity, but since 2010 the government has cut the HSE’s budget by 45% and plans further cuts reducing the HSE to a symbolic rump. If you Google the HSE you start to realise how ineffectual it’s become. Here’s one article on the issue. http://www.hazards.org/safetypimp/buyme.htm You can’t take an organisation that’s struggling to cope and cut its budget by 45% without major repercussions. Although the HSE has been involved with the accidents at Alton Towers, Drayton Manor and M&Ds, elsewhere safety has been left almost entirely to the industry to self-regulate. Now, I don’t want to start a panic against theme parks. Most of the time theme parks do take safety very seriously and The Smiler and Splash Canyon accidents have shown how damaging to a business an accident can be. Nonetheless, I do think that behind the scenes there are major problems with the way safety’s managed by the UK theme parks and the withdrawal of the HSE. Most of the time the public would be none the wiser, but with the disjointed response to coronavirus, I do think we’re seeing some of these issues bubbling up to the surface. I do accept the coronavirus isn’t typical of the problems facing the industry and lots of businesses have been caught off guard. Things have escalated faster than most of us expected and the future is unpredictable. BALPPA aren’t a scientific or medical authority, and there probably are other issues they’re better placed to advise on. The decisions around coronavirus are particularly difficult when you look at the financial implications and the safety implications. Parks are being asked to make major decisions about their future on the spur of the moment. Despite my sympathy for everyone, I do think this is turning into a bit of a farce. You’d have thought the industry would have got together and made a united decision like others have. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to judge self-regulation on this one issue and my concerns are based on a much bigger set of problems most people wouldn’t know about unless they worked in the industry. But what we’re seeing here is a public example of how self-regulation can or can’t work. I’m not suggesting that the HSE would have ever told theme parks to close or not in a pandemic. What I’m suggesting is that we’re relying on theme parks to self-regulate, largely through BALPPA. It seems very difficult to get the UK theme parks to agree on anything in regards to safety, and as a result parks have ended up doing their own thing. Because coronavirus is so high profile we’re all seeing it. But it happens with lots of other things that you probably wouldn’t notice if you were a regular enthusiast.