Monday, March 23, 2009

Middle East Safety Conference: Perspective

Recently I conducted an e-mail interview with Michael Mehlhorn, technical services director for
Universal Studios Dubailand, about IAAPA’s 2nd Annual Middle East Safety Conference, which will take place later this week. Michael attended last year’s program and will lead a session at this year's conference.

Read below for excerpts from our e-mail interview:

Heidi Aulakh: Tell me a little about yourself and your role at Universal Studios Dubailand.
Michael Mehlhorn: I have been working in the amusement industry for the past 25 years. My career began as an amusement ride technician where I recognized the important role maintenance plays in protecting patron safety. Throughout my career I have and continue to serve as an advocate for amusement ride safety. I further support this passion for safety by participating in standards development with ASTM International Committee F24 and my affiliation with the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO), promoting safety through communications. I am currently employed to support Universal Studios Dubailand as the technical services director. In this role, I am responsible for supporting design and construction of the park, along with developing and implementing a maintenance program that delivers safety, reliability, and quality.

HA: You attended IAAPA's first Middle East Safety Conference last year and are leading a session this year. Why do you feel this program is important for the industry in the Middle East?
MM: Yes, I was fortunate to attend the first Middle East Safety Conference last year. In meeting and interacting with other attendees, I was impressed with the level of interest and desire to improve the overall safety consciousness and practice within the region. The participants were sincerely interested in learning more about industry standards and practices for amusement ride safety. The program is important for the industry in the Middle East to help educate and build a knowledge base in the region.

HA: What can attendees expect to learn from your session? From attending the program in general?
MM: During my session at this year’s conference I will be offering the attendees a systematic approach to developing a maintenance program. The material presented is intended to offer a guide to formulating and implementing maintenance, especially as it relates to employee and patron safety.
In addition to the advertised sessions for this year’s conference, one of the most valuable benefits of attending will be the opportunity to meet, discuss, and begin to develop a network of colleagues in the region who share an interest in safety.

HA: In your opinion, what is biggest safety issue in the Middle East?
MM: I would have to say the rapid growth within the industry outpacing education, training, and experience. It is important to recognize the benefits of promoting a proactive approach to safety. That is the benefit of IAAPA putting together conferences like this that provide a forum for industry stakeholders to gather and share their knowledge base. This is especially beneficial for new entrants in the industry to learn and share with those who may not have the benefit of that experience.

I am encouraged by the early interest and reception to sharing experience. I am optimistic that the region’s owners, operators, manufacturers, corporations, and jurisdictional authorities will work together and embrace a proactive approach to safety.

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