Safety advocates still pushing for federal regulation of amusement rides

Posted Monday, August 20, 2018 10:03 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Amusement rides are hardly the biggest threat to American safety, though there is no hard injury data. The safety commission estimates there were 29,400 amusement ride injuries requiring emergency treatment last year at all types of parks, as well as inflatable attractions and even coin-operated rides at shopping malls. In its own separate estimates, the industry says there is only a one in 17 million chance of injury at fixed-site parks. The lack of federal oversight troubles some advocates, particularly relating to small parks with limited resources.

Read more from The New York Times.

Monday, August 20, 2018 10:14 AM

While framing the story in the context of this particular injury seems unfair, it's actually reasonably balanced in the use of the passage above. Where it stops short is that federal oversight would not have prevented any of the injuries or deaths mentioned in the article. I think it's worth asking the question, "How do you prevent these outliers?" but suggesting that federal oversight is the answer is not a reasonable truth.

The international safety standards are actually a pretty great starting point, and the fact that insurers and states tend to hold manufacturers and operators accountable to them. It still won't cover all situations, and a federal layer won't either. Look at the Ohio State Fair accident, where the only possible way to see that flaw coming would have been to look for it from the inside, on traveling models, apparently when they were subject to settling water. I don't know that you can legislatively prevent that, or even have safety standards with that much depth to look for such a flaw.

Getting stuff caught in go-kart axles is not a new phenomenon. It's also not an unknown, given the story in recent years about the lawsuit from a woman wearing a hijab that couldn't ride because of this specific safety concern.

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Monday, August 20, 2018 12:01 PM

On opening day of the Ohio State Fair this year there was a “silent” mobilization where quite a few, like, many people were seen in red shirts demanding ride safety. A photograph of the young man who lost his life was on the front of the shirt. That guy’s family, and others, are part of a movement and I believe they are demanding regulation.
I see a possible outcome of further regulation is ride companies and amusement parks having to dumb down their attractions in the interest of safety. You better believe the State was extremely watchful in Ohio this year, even down to golf cart and Gator activity on the ground. I think three or four major rides didn’t pass muster and were sent off the grounds. And some that stayed had to make modifications- a nice new (to us) three story funhouse was booked on this year and riders were made to bypass a slide that works just fine at every other major fair in the country.
I think it’s safe to say that Amusements of America is done in Ohio. This was the last year of their contract, and it was clear that they didn’t try very hard this time. Bid for the show are in, and my hope is that Wade Shows comes to us with their thrilling, sparkling midway.
And with whatever announcement that comes our way may also be the start of rebuilding trust in the industry and the push for further regulation won’t be so loud.

I don’t know what the answer is. And where will it stop? Swingsets on the playground? Nobody wins here.

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Monday, August 20, 2018 8:07 PM

Swingsets on the playground are in the purview of Committee F15 on Consumer Products, refer to ASTM F1487-17, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use.

The Fireball incident has resulted in a slew of specific proposed changes to the various F24 standards, but the reality is that the changes really just enumerate a specific hazard that has already been the responsibility of the various parties to address. The cracking on the Fireball could have been detected, but in over 20 years there had never been an issue and the manufacturer never specified that as an inspection point. With nobody testing for a problem there, that leaves the myriad of inspection bodies who looked at the ride and found nothing. My theory is that there was nothing to find until the crack erupted to the surface. This was ultimately the same mechanism of failure as the Monster at the Broward County Fair 30 years ago.
The fact is, absolute safety doesn’t exist. It is an unachievable goal that the amusement industry reaches for every day. So far I have seen nothing to convince me that a Federal safety program would have been any better than what we have now.

—Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, August 20, 2018 10:30 PM

When has the government achieved anything successfully that they have set out to do? What makes anyone think that their oversight would magically solve all the incidents.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018 1:13 AM

There is that; the other problem is the natural instinct is to “DO SOMETHING!!!” often while forgetting why you have that impulse in the first place, and failing to consider first—

What is the problem to be solved?

How will the proposed solution address that problem?

What will be the full impact of the proposed solution?

Does the proposed solution create any additional problems, and how do those compare with the problem you were trying to solve in the first place?

Sometimes, the solution is already in place. But that doesn’t fit the narrative that clearly something is wrong with the system that needs to be fixed.

—Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:23 AM

RCMAC said:

I think it’s safe to say that Amusements of America is done in Ohio.

Perhaps at the State Fair, but the Cuyahoga County Fair replaced Kissel Bros. Shows with AoA this year. I did not get the chance to visit, so I don't know what kind of midway they brought to a "lower tier" fair, but it was quite a surprise to see that the CCF decided to use AoA so soon after the State Fair accident.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018 2:00 PM

I love how they choose to lump in coin operated mall attractions in with parks and roller coasters. I can see them marketing those rides as "Unmanned drone controlled entertainment experiences." I think its unfair to call Millennium Force or Twisted Timbers unsafe because a kid falls off a fake pony in a BS shopping mall in Iowa.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018 7:10 PM

Thus Sayeth the ASTM:

1. Scope
1.1 This practice establishes criteria for the design of amusement rides, devices and major modifications to amuse- ment rides and devices manufactured after the effective date of publication except as noted in 1.2.
1.2 This practice shall not apply to:
(...)
1.2.5 coin operated rides,(...)
ASTM Practice F2291, Standard Practice for Design of Amusement Rides and Devices.

Most ride safety statutes and ordinances include a similar exemption.
—Dave Althoff, Jr.

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