As you plan your State Fair visit in the coming days, you may be thinking of which rides to try. Three groups of ride inspectors are working to keep you safe.
The Fire Ball, which broke mid-air at the Ohio State Fair this summer, is not on the list of options at the Oklahoma State Fair this year, but there are rides with the same concept. Fair organizers are now taking extra steps to ensure their stability.
Labor commissioner Melissa Houston says, “Any time that an incident happens anywhere in the country, it causes all of us to pause and do an evaluation of, are we doing enough? Is there more we can do?”
When the Fire Ball seat broke free of its corroded mount at the Ohio State Fair, killing a teen and injuring others, it had been inspected and certified to operate. The problem was found, not with the inspectors, but with the maker guidelines. “The company immediately shut down the ride, pulled the ride and issued new inspection criteria,” Houston points out.
Houston explains that manufacturers create the standards that inspectors use on each ride. The Fire Ball’s corrosion concern was not discovered until after the tragic accident occurred, however.
Oklahoma goes further than most states to triple check the safety of each ride that enters the lot, using a Department of Labor team plus two teams of outside contractors. “Our inspectors are on site to inspect every bolt, every restraint system, every seat,” says Houston.
You can find a sticker of certification on each ride at the fair, located on a license plate looking plaque fixed to the operator’s box, and the state's inspectors stay on the fairgrounds throughout the week to monitor their operation.
The only variable now, is you. “One of the biggest challenges we have in amusement ride safety is actually the ride restrictions and patrons obeying them,” admits Houston.
The Labor Department urges you to read the rules before you hop in line, and remember that those rules are there for a reason.