Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A very mobile phone

It took me a few hours before I realised just how close I and my daughter came to being injured or even killed in Derby's Market Place today. It wasn't really the fault of the young lads on the ride. In fact, it might have been my unwarranted suspicions of them that actually prevented us getting hurt...

...My daughter and I had crossed Derby's Market Place and had briefly stopped to look at the huge spinning ride that had been installed there - just like the one shown below. It was empty at the time but, by the time we returned, she saw it now had passengers on board, and was about to start moving.  She wanted to watch. We noticed it included a group of young lads who we'd seen earlier on that day at the Intu centre, messing around on the escalators. Nothing serious - just kids. She stopped to watch as the ride started up. It was then that I realised we were standing directly in front of it, edge-on, and looking right up towards it. Oops - we were potentially in the line of fire from anything that come might come flying from them!

I suggested we stand a few feet off to one side as it began rotating. "Why?" she asked, and so I replied that I didn't like the idea that one of them might try something stupid, like trying to spit on people below, or whatever. So we moved in a bit towards the cafe under the Assembly Rooms, and watched from there. (I think she thought I was daft, but that's the kind of thought processes caring Dad's go through.)

Could you be wiped out by items flying off from 'Speed' attractions like this one?
After a few rotations of the fast-spinning arm, we realised the chairs themselves revolved, too, with punters turning right over. Those really aren't the kind of rides I enjoy these days (you can tell I'm getting to be an old git, because who else says "these days", these days?) Suddenly there was a crash on the flagstone just in front of us, and there lay the perfect result of centrifugal force at work - someone's smartphone, completely smashed into pieces, and either forced out of their hands or ejected from the back pocket of one of the unlucky punters above us. At the time I felt sorry for them, so I collected up the bits and took them over to the control booth and handed them in. The look I got from the man in charge was almost one of "oh well, what do you expect? Stupid customers. Happens all the time". He didn't say that - but his expression did. It spoke volumes.

I went back to my daughter, and almost immediately there was a second dull thud. This time 5p pieces rolled across the flagstones. It sounded like someone's leather wallet had hit the ground and burst, although a quick glance round amongst the empty cafe seating didn't reveal anything. By now it it was starting to feel too risky to stick around. We quickly left.

It was only later, as I recounted the incident to my wife, that it struck me there really are some safety and management issues that need to be addressed here.

  • Where were the clear warning signs telling customers not to take loose items (wallets/phones etc) with them? 
  • Who's responsible for checking customers and holding on to these items? 
  • Why are the public not prevented from passing directly underneath these rides, or in the line of objects that might hurtle out from them? 
  • Who checks and licences these rides? 
  • And who would have been responsible had one of us been injured as a result of such poor ride management?

I feel sorry for the person who lost their phone today. (though not if they were using it at the time!) However, the idea of anyone being hit on the head, edge-on, by a fast-flying smartphone really doesn't bear thinking about. Nobody would stand sideways on to a catherine wheel whilst it's spinning around, but why was it so easy to pass in front of the fairground equivalent? These Speed rides reach forces of up to 3.5g (see here and here). There will be a phone call to the safety and licencing team at Derby City Council in the morning, assuming there's anyone still employed there these days.

Meanwhile, anyone with a hard hat and a few hours to kill could make a tidy profit by sitting in the outdoor cafe in the Market Place this week. You never know what valuable objects might fall into your lap.

Update: 3pm.  I've since received a courteous reply from Derby City Council, who have now spoken with the site managers. I've replied to say that I'm still not convinced from their response that enough is being done to discharge the duty of care to passengers and passers-by.

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