Markey trying again to get CPSC oversight for amusement parks

Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2007 12:51 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is again trying to extend the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to oversee amusement rides. Critics find it problematic that there is no federal oversight, while the industry and others point out that state regulation works fine.

Read more from The Washington Post via MSNBC.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 12:56 PM
Sigh. If you were to believe the critics, you'd think that amusement rides were death machines. And Kathy Fackler, who I think generally has her heart in the right place, is being irresponsible by calling it a "stream of suffering" that the feds don't care about. Of course the elected people at that level care, they're just deferring the task to the states, where it should be.

Let's get something straight. It's sad and terrible that kids get hurt. I'm with everyone there. But there's no evidence that oversight by the feds would have prevented even one of the accidents in the last ten years. If a state has weak regulation, then that state should act. I hate to sound like a Republican, but do we really need more government at the federal level?

Let's not forget that accidents are bad for business.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 2:01 PM
Markey's going to be saying the name "Kaitlyn Lassiter" more often than Rudy Giuliani brings up 9-11.

While that was a tragic incident and I have an enormous amount of sympathy, I don't think Federal oversight would have changed things one bit....and very well could make things even worse. An incident does NOT make a trend. Like Jeff said, accidents are bad for business. The incentives to run a safer park are endless, and the consequences of even one such accident are more *effective* in promoting safety than a bunch of meaningless red tape could ever be.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 3:46 PM
There are some things that should have federal oversight. This isn't one of them. Do we really need to create another bureaucracy that is as efficient as your local BMV? (DMV's for you non-Ohioans)

~Rob Willi

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 5:35 PM
I just don't understand why Markey has not figured it out yet. It isn't going to happen. It won't fly. The support isn't there, and from the article I read this morning, he hasn't got a single sponsor in the Senate yet.

And all the anecdotes in the world won't help. With the possible exception of the group of people that has been ejected from Sizzler rides, there really isn't a pattern of ride incidents and injuries. A CPSC investigation of any of the major incidents...I don't care whether you're talking about David Fackler, Richard Mordarsky, Tamara Fellner, Kaitlyn Lassiter, Gabriela Garin, June Alexander, or Timothy Fan...is unlikely to determine any cause of any of those incidents that is any different from the findings of the various jurisdictional investigators. It isn't a pattern of incidents. Each incident is unique, representing a combination of ride design, ride conditions, operator actions, and rider behaviors that resulted in an unfortunate outcome. In some cases, there are lessons learned that are applied to other rides. But most of the time we're talking about a unique incident on a single ride. The only thing all those accident victims have in common is that they were all injured or killed on amusement rides. The only thing the rides have in common is that they are all amusement rides. That's all.

Why has it not occurred to Rep. Markey that the epidemiological nature of the CPSC's work does not apply to amusement rides. The incident rates on any particular ride are, for the most part, so low that the CPSC statistical models do not apply. When the CPSC finds a design defect with a typical consumer product, they are usually dealing with a product of which there are millions of examples out in the world, and investigating an incident may prevent hundreds if not thousands of incidents. That's fine; that's what the CPSC is supposed to do, and that's why we have the CPSC.

In the case of amusement rides, though, we're talking about "products" that have a much lower level of exposure in terms of the number of products involved. Just as many members of the public, perhaps, but not nearly so many units. To my thinking, it does not make sense to investigate a single incident on an amusement ride in the same way that one would investigate a series of incidents involving, say, halogen floor lamps.

With that in mind, if Markey wants a Federal agency to have the responsibility for investigating ride accidents, then why not place that authority and responsibility in the hands of an agency whose investigations are better suited to the kinds of incidents in which amusement rides are involved: where you have a relatively small number of unique devices, but you have a large public exposure to those devices? Such a Federal agency does exist for the purpose of investigating incidents, and that agency is NOT the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In fact, that agency is the National Transportation Safety Board.

Would the NTSB not be a better fit for the investigation of amusement ride incidents at the Federal level than the CPSC? Of course, the problem with that is that it does very little good to have a Federal agency investigate incidents unless you also have a Federal agency charged with overseeing the industry and implementing any recommendations given by the NTSB. For that to be meaningful at *preventing* accidents, it would almost be necessary to create an amusement ride safety board at the Federal level, perhaps a "Federal Amusement Authority" to handle the recordkeeping and rulemaking for inspections across the country.

Of course, that would be a huge burden for the industry, and a very expensive program to manage, something that really isn't necessary so long as there are State and Local programs already in place. But to accomplish many of the goals that Rep. Markey, and indeed such advocates as Mrs. Fackler have stated, would it not make sense to at least start by using the NTSB structure as a framework for the investigation and data collection for a national incident database? Given that in nearly ten years Markey has had absolutely no success getting such authority granted to the CPSC, why has he not thought to try something else to accomplish his goal?

Or is his real goal just to get another half million dollars into the CPSC budget?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 5:48 PM
I don't understand the thinking of some people that by putting the federal government in charge of something magically fixes any problem. Look how wonderfully the wars on poverty, drugs, hurricanes, and lead-containing products from China have all fared. And this has all happened under Ed Markey's watch-- would you want to trust him with your safety?

While some people are calling for uniform regulation, does it make sense that Disney World and the Podunk County fair should be regulated the same way under some one-size-fits-all rulebook?

Unfortunately, like most government agencies, if this one were to be started, the first people they'd hire would be lawyers, office staff, technical writers, etc. They'd probably have more people to clean their offices than they would to inspect rides across the whole country. Park employees would spend more time filling out reports and completing forms than actually inspecting rides. They probably wouldn't be able to replace a light bulb without the whole process taking two months or more until all the paperwork and the multi-step review process is complete.

As a worst case, I could honestly see parks sitting closed in the middle of July because the understaffed federal ride inspection agency hasn't gotten there yet to give their official stamp of approval.

Yes, having 4 people die each year on amusement rides is a tragedy. We should all be glad nothing seriously wrong has happened to us. But let's have some perspective here. Over 100 people die in vehicle accidents every day, but has anyone here heard about traffic fatalites in KY or Rye NY? But every news outlet in the country reported on the ride accidents that happened in those locations. 4 people is a slow weekend for Philly homicide detectives. At the rate of 4 people per year, in only 100 years as many people will die on amusement rides as will be murdered in Philadelphia this year. Where should we be placing our resources again?

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 6:05 PM
As a state certified ride inspector, I fail to see how the federal government could help me do my job.

I really don't understand the bug up this guy's ass about amusement rides. It's been 10 years, everyone else thinks it's a non-issue. Give it up. Start spending those tax dollars on something people give a crap about.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 6:29 PM
Believe me, you don't want the CPSC to have anything to do with amusement parks. This organization is totally out of control. They've been harassing the pryotechnics community for the past several years and if they get their way all fireworks (even the ones licensed professionals such as myself use) will be outlawed and there will be no fireworks, period.

They need to stick with checking lead levels in toys.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007 11:39 PM
I honestly don't think that he pushes this every year for any other reason than he wants his constituents to think he's a swell guy who is looking out for the children.

I don't believe he's a total moron. He's taking up the net neutrality cause too, though the legislation he's tried to introduce for that is criticized as being half-assed and impotent.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 3:18 AM
That dude is still around? Geez.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 9:31 AM
Is this guy running for reelection ? I think I will send 10.00 to whomever is running against him.

That said might it save the parks (that have an accident ) money. They can say when the lawsuit get filed that they were in compliance with all federal guidelines.

It may also give some park a new reason not to open some rides (ride closed due to federal oversight) If there were an accident and the rides paper work was not returned from the feds the park would be in worse trouble.

Since you are more likely to be injured or killed in your car on the way to the park why doesn't he go after the car companies. I will tell you why the car companies donate boatloads of cash to both parties. This is his way of getting donations from parks and ride manufactures.They may not donate to him but they will donate to get what they see as fair treatment.

It is all POLITICS if you think he is doing this to help the little children you have your head in the sand (or somewhere else)

Kevin38

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:21 PM
...I don't believe he's a total moron...

Very close tho.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:46 PM
Markey's a democrat from Massachusetts. Bill Gates has less job security.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 3:16 PM
How does this person and Kennedy keep getting re-elected? Im beginning to think the people of the state that had the gonads to throw a boston tea party (Which was treasonous) have lost them.

Chuck

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 3:17 PM
Bogeyman, that's not necessarily true. Need I mention Mitt Romney?

I agree on this one. There are some subjects that really cry for federal influence and oversight, as well as guidance and mandated direction. There are other items that would be sufficiently supported at the state level. Amusement Park oversight is sufficiently covered at the state level.

Dangerous rides, or ride accidents, are terrible for business. If a state desires to have amusement park business in their state, for the tourism and revenue and additional benefits that come from that, then they will make sure of the necessary oversight to keep that business sector stable. For that matter, if an amusement park cares to stay in business or turn a profit, or increase their profits, they will take every pain to be safe.

Federal oversight would be sort of like a clumsy after-the-fact johnny-come-lately. And what if an accident happens in the pacific northwest - how would the parks in the southeast know about it? Because the ride manufacturer would issue communication about the incident, the ride in question, and resolution procedures. I bet not too many ride manufacturers want to go out of business or stop turning a profit either. The federal government is not needed to make sure communications occur effectively amongst parks or amongst the customers of different ride manufacturers.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 3:23 PM
LOL Chuck, but the state of Massachusetts HAS had the gonads to embrace and try a significant implemented reform to their state health care system. That requires significant bravery.

I almost sound like a Republican (I'm not) - I'm just saying. In a country in which health care is a big worry and the cause of great inaction, MA took some action. Years will tell if it actually will do any good (it might be horrible), but at least there was enough factual basis for believing it might do some good, and therefore trying it out and making it happen. We can't say that all actions taken in this country over the past 8 years have been based on sufficient facts ;-).

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 4:47 PM
What classifies an injury and is public oversight needed into those injuries?

Was it a good (or desirable) injury, an undesirable injury, or just that a person is more sensitive to injury? The first injury type may have you scratching your head, but I'll explain.

A seasoned vetran of the enthusiast community and I were having a talk at the Fall ACE Thrillfest at KD, and we got talking about The Voyage and some other rides that are intense. He talked about how some enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of going up against those intense rides, so to speak.

For example, there's one Coasterbuzz member who brags of the bruises he got on The Voyage after 34 (?) rides in his signature line. So I would clarify that as a good or desirable injury because that person didn't seem bothered by it. There's also some with a love for older Arrow mega-loopers, original 'flavor' SLC's, and really rough wooden coasters.

Then there's the person who strikes a body part on a part of the restraints or seat and it leaves a mark or causes pain. I would clarify that as a undesirable injury.

Then there's the person like my sister who bruises easily. She got off the Runaway Minetrain at Great Adventure this summer and got a monster bruise from the new metal sides of the lapbars installed last year. The bruise got even bigger the next day.

How many of these injuries get reported? I would say probably not a lot unless it caused severe pain. So what kind of things are people reporting to First Aid or going to the ER for? Bee stings (maybe a allergic reaction), trips and falls, go-kart accidents (in my experience of operating a track--one of the most dangerous rides in the whole park), dehydration, sunburns, headaches, etc.

I think the public has to be cautious when reading statistics because it's not giving a clear picture of what those injuries or trips to the ER were for. They're never going to be given an opportunity though to have a cautious opinion when reading the numbers because reporters always love to throw in statements like "the Kingda Ka roller coaster pulls as many g's as an astronaut does and travels at speeds twice the legal road speed limit."

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007 6:12 PM
Something needs to be clarified here, because Markey has been at this for so long that no reporter bothers to actually read his Bill anymore.

What Markey would do is this:
a) Empower the CPSC to investigate amusement ride incidents and make recommendations resulting from those investigations

b) Increase the CPSC budget by a half-million dollars to pay for this new assignment

The Bill says nothing about setting standards, requiring adherence to any standards, inspection programs, ride registration, documentation of rides, documentation of incidents, analysis of incident trends, insurance or liability requirements, type acceptance, engineering requirements, or for that matter, anything else meaningful for promoting ride safety. At best, it would make it more difficult to conclude an investigation into a ride incident. Most likely it would result in a flurry of expensive but useless service bulletins resulting from every recent ride incident (these yoyos would try to install seat belts on a Gravitron if you gave them an opportunity). At worst, it would result in financially -strapped states shutting down or scaling back their current inspection programs in favor of the much talked-about (but non-existent) Federal oversight program.

It's been a bad Bill since the day Markey wrote it, and it has failed to get better in the past ten years. Fortunately, every Congress that has seen it has seen it for what it was, and chosen to do nothing with it. Even our current Congress, as worthless as it is, doesn't seem to be stupid enough to let this one fly. As long as it doesn't say anything about Iraq, Congressional leadership won't touch it anyway...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 2:17 PM

How does this person and Kennedy keep getting re-elected?

What's more amazing is that in this time, one hasn't given the other a ride home.

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Friday, December 7, 2007 7:27 PM
Would YOU accept a ride home from Ted Kennedy?

Nobody said Markey was stupid, just misguided!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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