Yesterday’s keynote address from GE Executive VP John R. Sprouls was one of the highlights. With over 750 acres of games, rides, hotels, and restaurants, Universal Orlando has a big job serving the more than 15 million guests each year. Rule #1 for the 15,000 employees that achieve this success is "the safety of our guests and team members is essential. Rule #2: when in doubt, see Rule #1…
Mr. Sprouls described a day in the life of a theme park that prides itself on delivering and unbelievable experience. Unfortunately, for many of his employees, that goal is tough. Each hour, over 250 bags of trash are lifted, 1500 people are moved through ride restraints, 2000 pounds of food is lifted and served, and 3800 torque checks on bolts are made (required maintenance).
He discussed how their acquisition by GE changed their corporate safety culture. In four years, their injury rate is down from 10 (per 100 people) to 4 (Theme park national average is 11). How did they do it? By engaging their people in an effort to question everything, to ask "how can this be done more safely while giving our guests a premier experience?"
An example: The Shrek costume worn for six shows a day (30 minutes/show) was heavy, hot (Orlando in August!), and had poor visibility for the performer. In its first 18 months of use, the one-piece costume incurred 42 injuries, resulting in 600 lost days and numerous near misses with small children due to the poor site lines. The answer: Off with his head! With the help of one of GE’s quick hits ergonomics projects (and some Humantech engineers) the costume was redesigned to be two pieces, ventilated, lighter weight, with better sight lines through the characters mouth. Total cost: $1600. The result: no further injuries or lost days. Preventative steps are being taken now with Homer Simpson for the soon to be launched Simpson’s Theme area.
As John talked about additional steps they took with ergonomics (reducing waiting times for rides, more rides per person, and a better overall customer experience) you got the sense that Universal Orlando and GE have taken the role of ergonomics beyond Health & Safety and rely on it to improve business performance.