Aimee, Director of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) theme park, spent two years focusing on safety policies and practices in preparation for the robot warfare and immersive thrills of Transformers: The Ride-3D at USH.
A 20-year employee, she helped integrate EHS into the operating culture at USH in 2004. Aimee describes its mission in fundamental terms: "We’re here to support and protect Universal Parks and Resorts’ most valuable assets — our employees, our guests, and the environment."
Bringing the Transformers attraction to life was a complex and demanding project from the outset, starting with the demolition of an existing attraction to make room for the new ride. "This was a high-risk demolition of a very old building with flame and gas elements built into it," Aimee says. "We also had to erect a massive tower crane on the property, which introduced another whole set of challenges." The demolition and crane work were virtually flawless.
But the confines of the site were an ongoing challenge. Three sides were surrounded by operational sound stages; on the fourth was the active theme park. "It was like working in a heavily populated urban environment, like squeezing a new building in a city block," she says.
Working with the construction group at Universal Creative, Aimee managed the safe movement of material, equipment, and up to 350 workers across an active construction site. She and her colleagues also had to coordinate with shooting and production schedules, all with minimal impact on park operations. But they didn’t have to do it alone.
"Throughout this project, we had nothing but total support from above for doing the right thing in terms of safety, operating responsibly, and continuous improvement," Aimee says. "Preventing injuries to our guests and employees is always our first priority."
Our management also understands that safety is an investment. "If we don’t do it safely and we have incidents, we’ll shut down to investigate. We’ll miss deadlines," she says. "It will affect the schedule and the budget. Stringent oversight at the outset is actually more efficient and pays off in the long run, and NBCUniversal gets that."
The Transformers attraction opened in June 2012, to overwhelming guest response and satisfaction. Post-opening adjustments or fixes have been minimal, and Aimee thinks she knows why.
"EHS has been involved with this attraction since the very beginning, and senior management backed us right down the line," she says. "We pulled together a tremendous range of expertise and made sure we did things right so we could create a ride that’s as safe as it is thrilling."