WildPlay preps for safety from the ground up

Jonathan Huittika stands on the bungee jump platform above the Nanaimo River.

While camping on Vancouver Island recently, I got a chance to meet with the staff at Nanaimo’s WildPlay Elements Park (formerly the Bungee Zone) to talk with them about their new safety program.

I met with the company’s skills training manager Jonathan Huittika, site manager Jennifer Doyle, and WorkSafeBC safety officer Dave Gaskill. Together we sat in the sun on a patio and they told me about the new safety program they’ve been working on together.

“We pretty much had to set it up from the ground up with meetings, documentation, an operational health and safety manual, and committees of workers and managers who meet on-site,” Jonathan said.

Jonathan Huittika, Dave Gaskill, and Jennifer Doyle at WildPlay, Nanaimo.

“Before Dave came, we had practices but we didn’t have proper documentation. Obviously we have to be extremely safety-minded here – for guests and staff.”

Jen, the site manager, said her team has been working on the safety manual and looking at ergonomics. They also look at personal safety for workers who may be confronted by difficult guests.

“We cover it in our training – how to speak with a guest who is under the influence of alcohol or is being unsafe in any way. We do a lot of role playing in different scenarios,” she said.

Facilitating freaky fun

WildPlay guests bungee jump into the river, zip-line through the air, swing across cliffs, and navigate obstacle courses high in the trees. During the peak summer season, up to 40 workers keep things going smoothly. All of them take a five-day training course and are coached and monitored continually during their employment at the park.

WildPlay workers collect bungee jumpers from the river when they finish bouncing.

“Obviously falling is a big hazard we deal with all the time, but we’ve never had someone fall off something,” Jonathan said. “More likely injuries are the ones we don’t notice at first – like overuse when someone doesn’t stretch properly or mental stress from dealing with a large amount of people coming through the park.”

I asked Jonathan if he had any advice for other employers starting safety programs from the ground up.

“The most important thing is to be proactive with your WorkSafe agent. You do not have to have everything perfect from the start but it is important to keep progressing,” he said. “Even when your program is established, you need to always have risk management in the back of your mind in your day-to-day work practices and to address these concerns proactively on a consistent basis.”


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