SALEM, Ohio — Following a deadly accident at last year’s Ohio State Fair, the amusement rides at Ohio’s fairs will be safer and more thoroughly inspected this year, according to state officials.
A new inspection program has been put in place that will require maintenance records and inspections of the internal parts of steel structures.
Last year’s accident was attributed to undetected and unknown corrosion within the steel tubing of a ride known as the Fire Ball. A rusty support beam caused the seating unit to separate from the ride, leading to the death of an 18-year-old from Columbus.
Following the accident, the Ohio Fair Managers Association and the major amusement ride groups of the state worked with ride manufacturers and state ride inspectors at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, to develop a more inclusive way of inspecting rides for safety.
Howard Call, executive director of Ohio Fair Managers Association, said the focus is on inspecting the internal components of steel and making sure all the rides at the fair are safe.
The fair groups announced a four-part inspection plan that requires ride manufacturers to provide service bulletins addressing the issue of internal corrosion to the ride owners.
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The ride owners must keep detailed records of inspections, as required by the service bulletins, and the records will be shared with agriculture department’s Division of Amusement Ride Safety.
As many as 21 new guidelines for detecting corrosion are being evaluated, and will soon be released by ASTM International.
“We are telling people that our fairs are safe to attend, our amusement rides are safe to be on and we want you to come out and see the agricultural activities at our fair and to have fun,” Call said.
Accidents and injuries are “totally unacceptable,” according to a joint press release of the fair association, the Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association and the Ohio Festivals & Events Association.
“Any ride accident is of concern to the industry,” the groups said. “An accident resulting in injury or loss of life is totally unacceptable.”
Although some of the standards won’t be finalized until midsummer or fall, ride experts say the standards related to corrosion were enforced this past winter — and that Ohio’s earliest fairs will be up to standard.
Charlotte Jeremy, senior fair board director and concessions superintendent at the Portage County Fair, said the county fair does not have the kind of thrill rides found at larger festivals, but the Portage County rides are still inspected by the state, and the ride company provides daily reports to fair board members.
An official from the Trumbull County Fair, July 8-15, said ride safety and inspections are handled through the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and that people who want more information should contact the state’s ride inspection division.
Internal corrosion can be difficult to detect, so the amusement organizations are developing ways to use internal cameras, and structural testing to determine the internal integrity of steel components.
Signs of internal corrosion can sometimes be detected from the outside, by tapping the steel and observing the sound created, or checking for any bubbling or peeling of the exterior surface, according to current service bulletins.
Eric Bates, an owner with Bates Brothers Amusement Co., said the new standards will “work quite effectively” to maintain the safety of the occupants.
“This intensive effort on both an international and national basis will produce better regulation, increased testing and specific inspections by Ohio Ride Safety inspectors, and enhanced amusement ride operations, making Ohio’s fairs and festivals as safe as humanly possible,” said David Drake, president of the Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association.