By Michael Daigle • Daily Record
Lucy A. Murphy, of Jefferson, is in the business of fun.
Fun, like safety, she said, is serious business.
Her employer, Zamperla Inc., has been making roller coasters, amusement park rides and even those single-rider shopping mall rides for more than a century.
Zamperla rides are found in amusement parks operated by Disney, Six Flags Great Adventure, Universal Studios, Dorney Park in Allentown, Pa., and even are used by the ride operator at the Sussex County fair, she said.
But Murphy also is one of the people in New Jersey who oversees the industry as a member of the Advisory Board on Carnival Amusement Ride Safety.
That board is where the fun side of her career meets the safety side.
Murphy, along with Ernest Niles, of Montville, and Adam Wallach, of Madison, were recently nominated for reappointment by Gov. Jon Corzine. The nominations are subject to state Senate approval. Murphy has served on the board for about seven years, she said. The board meets five times a year.
Zamperla started as a circus operator in the 19th century and in the 20th century became a ride manufacturer. The Italian company has a reputation for quality rides, including roller coasters, Ferris wheels, pirate galleons and water flues, she said.
It is also known as an innovator of family-friendly “flat” rides that provide excitement but not the terror of the taller, faster roller coasters. At Dorney Park, Zamperla has installed the Dragon Coaster and Woodstock Express, for example.
Murphy said she finds herself perusing ride operations while visiting carnival and fairs. She said she looks for some basic things: Are there proper signs visible about the ride’s height requirements? Is the operator attentive and the ride property maintained?
Her job for Zamperla involves many of the same issues that come before the state ride safety board, she said. It is a detailed job that tracks documentation, deals with customer concerns, as well as safety and repairs. Prior to working for Zamperla, Murphy said she worked for Six Flags, when the company was part of Time-Warner Corp. and headquartered in Parsippany.
“We are selling fun,” Murphy said, but at the same time “safety is the prime goal, a safer experience.”
The carnival ride safety board is affiliated with the Department of Community Affairs, and is charged with reviewing amusement park industry codes and standards and advising the community affairs commissioner on the findings.
The 10-member board is comprised of manufacturers, ride owners, park owners, insurance representatives, engineers and members of the public.
Board members review annual inspection reports, discuss standards with state engineers and inspectors, and examine reports of incidents that involve injury. The goal is find ways to ensure that amusement park rides are as safe as possible, and that the operators are well trained and follow proper procedures, she said.
Murphy said the industry is well-regulated, with state and national associations also helping develop standards for the more than 400 amusement parks in the United States.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, in 2006, 335 million visitors attended U.S. amusement parks, taking more than 1.5 billion rides. The industry employed more than 500,000 workers and generated $11.5 billion in revenue in 2006 the association said.
New Jersey has more than a dozen theme parks that feature rides, but amusement rides also appear at local carnivals and county and state fairs, Murphy said.
She said the state’s inspection actions and regulations produce “a lot of layers of oversight.” New standards, for example, are reviewed by the full board after state engineers issue their opinions, and a subcommittee has reviewed those findings, she said. Before the rules are adopted, public hearings are held, she said.
Rides at permanent theme parks like Six Flags are inspected annually, and inspectors perform spot checks during the season. Rides at fairs and carnivals are inspected each time they are installed at a new event, she said.