CARNIVAL SAFETY: A closer look into fair ride inspections

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:55 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Corn dogs, funnel cakes, and carnival rides mean it’s the fair season in Arkansas.

Hundreds of rides have already been inspected just this week by the Arkansas Department of Labor in what they call an “active fair season”.

Across the state, fairs are opening and preparing for thousands of people to come and enjoy what they have to offer.

One of those was the Greene County fair, which opened its doors earlier this week.

Before the Ferris wheel lights up and squeals of children fill the air, carnival managers and ride operators are at work putting up each ride.

But how safe are the rides once they are up and moving?

State inspectors inspect each ride before anyone steps a foot on the platform.

The Amusement Ride and Amusement Attractions Safety Insurance Act says the following:

“All portable amusement rides or attractions shall be inspected by the Director or any officer of the Department designated by the Director every time they are moved to a new location in Arkansas and before they are permitted to commence operation or open to the public.”

“In Arkansas, the law requires that all mobile carnivals, that is the amusement rides entities that are out there, get inspected every time that they move to a new site,” said Ralph Hudson, director of the Arkansas Department of Labor.

Because of this rule, nearly 400 inspections have taken place in just a week.

Hudson said some rides have been inspected twice in a week as they’ve moved from carnival to carnival.

He explained during the process, inspectors look at a variety of physical aspects of the rides.

“This allows our inspectors to get a good look at them, make sure they are safe,” Hudson said. “Check the hydraulics, check the welds, check the chains that hold the swing rides.”

They also look at past and present records from ride owners.

“We also check maintenance records, make sure they have an active policy of insurance, we make sure that any nondestructive testing required by manufacturers has been completed pursuant to manufacturer guidelines and requirements,” Hudson said.

Fair manager Dennis Hammon has worked with the Greene County Fair for 30 years.

He said knowing the inspections happen gives him a piece of mind going into the fair week.

“One of my biggest deals was that every time I got on one I was looking to see what was what, but everything is good and people knowing that it’s been inspected,” he explained.

According to amusement ride inspection reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Greene County Fair had 17 rides in total between two companies. Inspections on those rides took place on Sept. 5.

“It is not uncommon for us to say that ride can not operate until you have fixed it and until you’ve gotten a belt repaired or a seat belt fastened properly,” Hudson said.

PBJ Happee Day Shows set up one ride: “The Gravitation”. The inspection report showed there were no violations with that ride during the inspection.

Sonshine Amusements set up 16 rides at the Greene County Fair. The ride named “Round Up” had one issue.

The report said, “The ride/attraction had stairs, walkways, and/or platforms which posed a hazard in that the entrance stairs needed to be adjusted for patron safety entering the ride.”

It also stated the issue was corrected on-site and the report was closed with the ride complying, making it possible to open for patrons.

If a ride is operated before clearance is given, owners are subject to a cease and desist. There also could be a penalty of not more than $10,000.

Hudson said if you see a ride something on a ride that makes you uncomfortable riding it, tell your ride operator immediately.