Janesville42.9°

Amusement rides subject to inspections

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Ryan Dostalek
July 19, 2008
— Tilt-a-whirl.

Scrambler.


Ferris wheel.


All are Rock County 4-H Fair midway staples.


But are the rides safe?


All amusement rides are subject to annual inspections by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, safety and building division administrator Greg Jones said. But that doesn’t mean all rides get inspected.


“We do our best to get to as many rides as we can,” he said.


Department of Commerce records indicate Farrow Amusements, one of several companies operating under the umbrella of North American Midway Entertainment, is scheduled to provide the rides at the Rock County 4-H Fair, said Barbro Andren McGinn, senior communications specialist at the department.


Farrow during the week of July 7 had 24 of its rides inspected in Chippewa Falls, according to department records.


The department has no accident reports on file for Farrow or North American Midway Entertainment, and the department database has no record of past accidents at the Rock County 4-H Fair.


Bobby Gill, general manager for North American Midway Entertainment, said the company’s rides are safe.


“When I put my kids on (the rides), they’re certainly safe,” Gill said.


Even in the wake of last year’s death of a 16-year-old Menasha girl who fell 50 feet from a Giant Swing ride, Gill stresses carnival rides are safe.


“(We’ve had) incidents, sure, but we haven’t had any major accidents,” he said. “With the number of people that come to the Rock County Fair each day, you couldn’t take that many people to Wal-Mart and not have an incident.”


Gill said such things as trips and scrapes are considered incidents, and he said they’re “a common thing.”


To ensure fair-goers’ safety, Gill said North American performs daily inspections. Ride supervisors document all inspections on ride-specific forms that follow manufacturer guidelines. Gill said the logs are available to all state agencies, complying with Wisconsin safety code.


When state inspectors examine a ride, they look for problems with breaks and restraints, among other things. If inspectors find a potentially life-threatening problem, inspectors issue a cease-and-desist order requiring the ride to be shutdown until the problem is fixed and the ride re-inspected, Jones said.


If a non-compliant problem doesn’t pose a fatal threat, inspectors will set a timeline for repairs; most are fixed on the spot, he said.


In addition to state and supervisor inspections, North American Midway Entertainment hires independent safety inspectors to examine its rides, Gill said.


“They’re another set of eyes that might catch something we’ve missed, or something the state missed,” he said.


Most ride operators follow the state safety code and comply with regulations, Jones said.


With emotional reactions to last year’s fatality still looming, Gill said North American Midway Entertainment hasn’t changed its practices.


“(We don’t) do anything differently than what we’ve always done,” he said. “We look at our equipment daily. You can’t do much more than that.”



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