State reports 2 amusement ride accidents, 19 unauthorized ride operators
Recent amusement park accidents have many parents thinking twice about letting their kids get on certain rides this summer. Are they over reacting?
Most amusement ride accidents happen between May and September. When kids are on break from school.
Safety experts say one of the top accident causes is operator negligence- including the employee in charge and the ride equipment.
Here in Washington, amusement rides are regulated by the State Department of Labor and Industries in Olympia.
"If somebody wants to come an operate amusement rides here in the state, the first thing they have to do is they need to get all of their equipment safety inspected at least once a year." said Jose Rodriguez , assistant Director of Field Services and Public with state Department of Labor and Industries.
Rodriguez explained the the annual safety inspections are conducted by private, certified safety inspectors through the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. Each inspector must pass a competency exam. There are 24 such inspectors in the state of Washington. The best operators conduct their own daily inspections in addition to the annual checks, and any ride that uses electricity must pass a separate electrical inspection.
In addition to passing annual safety certifications, ride operators must provide a certificate that proves they carry $1 Million in insurance coverage.
Whether it's a temporary set up for the fair, or a year round zip line, every operator must pass inspection and be properly insured in order to get an official official operating permit. That permit is good for one year and must be posted where you can see it.
The permits are laminated cards that list the name of the ride, the permit expiration date, the serial number of the specific ride and a state permit number. The color of the permit changes every year.
If you don't see a current permit on the ride- don't get on. So far this year, the state has issued cease operations letters to 19 operators that didn't have the required permit so before you visit a temporary amusement ride that is not at the same location year-round, you might want to check the list of amusement and inflatable ride companies that are currently licensed to do business in Washington.
Even with a permit- Rodriguez urges parents to pay attention to the employee putting you or your child one the ride.
Are they knowledgeable about the ride? Are they paying attention to the ride or are they distracted? When they put you in the right, do they appear to be going through all the right safety checks to make sure both you and the equipment are secure?
Finally- pay attention to the height and weight standards posted on the ride and follow all instructions.
Safety experts list 'rider' negligence as a second common cause of injuries on amusement rides. The third injury cause is linked to diagnosed and non-diagnosed medical conditions that happen during the ride.
Inspection permits by the way, are even required for non-profit events, summer camps and rides at school functions.
In fact of the 2 ride injuries reported in Washington state so far this year, one was on an inflatable bungee run at a middle school in Shoreline. In that case, the state says a carabiner clip released from the anchor point because of operator error and hit a boy in the head in June.
The second accident happened in July. A 4-year old broke his elbow while on an inflatable bounce house slide being run by a private operator in Tacoma- that did not have a valid inspection permit.
You can also learn more about what to look for, what the inspection process does and does not entail, and how to file a complaint, on the Department of Labor and Industries' website.
The Consumer Product Safety points out the safety inspection regulations do not apply to water slides, which have a high number of injuries every year.