Safety First: What Goes Into Keeping Up Carnival Rides

Of the 2078 amusement rides inspected in Connecticut in 2018, 1278 had deficiencies.

As summer winds down, fair season heats up, bringing in amusement rides and attractions.

Consumer Investigator Sandra Jones looked into just how safe those rides are, and what goes in to making sure they stay that way.

Whether it’s the state fair, amusement parks, or even carnivals, Connecticut State Police say safety is non-negotiable.

Tragedies have marred the fun at events across the country.

In 2018, a woman fell out of an amusement ride in Queens ending up in the hospital. In 2017, the Fireball ride at the Ohio State Fair malfunctioned mid-air, killing one person and injuring seven others.

And in 2016, at Ocean Beach in New London, Connecticut State Police shut down the Scrambler after a half dozen people were shocked.

Terrifying scenes have played out at amusement parks across the country.

CT inspection numbers

“We want to keep everybody safe coming out to these carnivals, the travelling road shows that come out,” explained Detective Richard Gregory with the Connecticut State Police Explosion Investigation Unit.

Detective Richard Gregory is charged with keeping you safe on the rides.

“If we could keep the ride from falling over. If we could keep the car onto the ride and if we could keep the passenger safe in the car that they’re sitting in then we’ve done a job there,” he said.

Gregory explained his work as he inspected nearly 30 rides at the Danbury Fair Mall, checking for proper set up and making sure state regulations are followed.

First up was the Ferris wheel.

“I started at the foundation. I start at the blocking at the basic footprint of the ride to make sure that it’s level and steady,” he said.

Working safety restraints are a must.

“Make sure that all of their fasteners are in place. All their seatbelts are properly buckled and broken parts are replaced.”

Some of the equipment’s safety features include indicators for operators.

“You can see none of the green lights are illuminated right now. So, the operator knows this ride can’t start until it gets four green lights across the top,” he said.

Inspectors search for sharp edges or hazards inside of cars, and if they’re securely attached.

“We find a lot of broken and worn parts and pieces to the rides. All of the rides are portable. So, we look at the set up positions of the rides,” Gregory said.

Something else that’s essential for safety at those festivals - height restrictions, which are posted at every ride, set by the manufacturer in both English and Spanish.

“We can never have too many sets of eyes to make sure everything is safe,” said Marc Janas with Powers Great American Midways. Janas said his company hasn’t had a mishap in 40 years, and they plan to keep it that way.

Janas said that he thinks sometimes, carnivals get a bad wrap.

“I think people have a misperception that it’s a fly by night type of operation where we’re a multi-million dollar business,” Janas said. “We’re very, very proud of what we do and we’re proud to have a great safety record.”

According to Connecticut State Police, 2078 amusement rides were inspected in 2018 in Connecticut. They found deficiencies in 1278, ranging from missing parts to serious safety hazards.

So far this year, out of 1078 inspections they’ve found 562 with deficiencies.

When that happens, Gregory said they put an out of service tag on the ride, and ground it.

The outdoor amusement business Association estimates that out of the 2 million-plus riders annually nationwide, there were roughly between 2,000 to 3,500 reported injuries yearly, with at least one fatality each year.

In Connecticut, there were just four reported injuries in 2017, and no fatalities in 2017 or 2018.

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