IAAPA Responds to Consumers Digest Water Park Safety Story

To the editor,

We are disappointed in the unbalanced and biased reporting in your March/April story, “Waterparks: Is Public Safety Going Down the Tubes?” The safety of our guests is the top priority of the water park industry and although we explained the great measures we take to ensure guest safety, reporter Sara Bongiorni and your editorial staff only decided to include a portion of what we told her. It is important your readers understand the complete story:

  1. Injury Data is Flawed – The injury statistics quoted from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on water slide injuries are not just injuries from water parks. They include injuries from all types of commercial and government-run aquatic facilities with slides, including hotel pools, municipal parks, and community pools. Plus, even the CPSC has said using the NEISS hospital data to estimate injuries for fixed-site attractions is not reliable.  Fixed-site attractions, including water parks, are not evenly distributed across the country which means the injury numbers can change by simply changing the location of one hospital in the 100-hospital sample used for data collection.
  2. Injuries are Rare – 83 million people visit water parks in the United States each year and those individuals participate in approximately 1.6 billion slides/activities while visiting water parks. Even if you accept the 5,200 injuries quoted (keeping in mind point 1 above) in relation to the 1.6 billion slides/activities, you will see that injuries are in fact rare.
  3. One Injury is Too Many – Water park operators closely track injury data for their facilities and use that data to identify potential issues to avoid future injuries. We apply that new learning in the standards that guide how the industry operates.
  4. Injury Prevention is a Partnership between Parents and Parks Most of the injuries that occur at water parks do so because guests do not follow posted instructions or safe rider guidelines. Here is a list of safety guidelines we recommend for families who visit water parks: www.IAAPA.org/waterparksafetytips. It is also important to remember enjoying water park attractions is a physical, interactive experience so it is important that guests are in good physical health to help ensure their own safety.
  5. The Industry Supports, Follows, and Helps Develop Strict Safety Standards There are well-established standards for the safe design, construction, maintenance, operation, and inspection of water slides. ASTM International (an organization that develops safety standards for all types of products and industries with the active involvement of experts, including government officials and consumer advocates) standards are referenced in a number of state laws and guide how water park operators maintain safety in their slide operations. In fact, both the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and the World Waterpark Association (WWA) recommend their members follow ASTM standards in all aspects of their operations. In addition, the industry has worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to develop the new Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) that will provide additional guidelines for commercial aquatic operations. Many water park operators have followed the guidelines that will be included in the MAHC for many years.
  6. No Evidence Supports Federal Oversight Will Improve Safety – We believe strong local and state regulation is the most effective government oversight for the water park industry. The states need the flexibility to create and enforce water park laws that are relevant to the attractions in their state, and that’s what they have done. Developing a federal program would require the already overburdened, resource-starved Consumer Product Safety Commission to invest millions of taxpayer dollars to staff a department of qualified inspectors, investigators, and staff. More important, we have no reason to believe this federal program would improve the already outstanding safety record of the industry.

This information was provided to Ms. Bongiorni and she and the editorial team decided to not include it in the story. In addition, we provided multiple industry experts from water park operators to water slide manufacturers and engineers to aid Ms. Bongiorni in her research. Unfortunately, those experts were either never contacted or their comments were not included in her story. We find this disappointing given the reputation Consumers Digest has for producing objective, unbiased stories.

A water park provides the safest form of water-related summer fun for families. Our industry is committed to the safety of our guests. If our facilities weren’t safe, they wouldn’t remain open. It’s that simple. We agree that water park goers should pay close attention to safety. They should follow all posted safety guidelines, follow safety instructions, and if they see any activity or condition that poses a concern, they should immediately report it to management. With parents and parks working together, a day at a water park is a fun and safe way for families to enjoy quality time together. We look forward to entertaining you at America’s water parks this summer.


Paul Noland
President and CEO
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)

Rick Root
World Waterpark Association (WWA)