Checking on Amusement Ride Safety

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that an audit of the State Department of Labor found its efforts to inspect amusement park rides were thorough, but that more work was needed to ensure safety and inspections at small, temporary festivals. As a result, DiNapoli is sending auditors to visit transient fairs and festivals through the rest of the summer to ensure rides are inspected.

“As families head out to county fairs and festivals, they should feel confident that the Department of Labor is aggressively inspecting amusement park rides and ensuring they are safe for New Yorkers,” DiNapoli said. “Even with inspections, injuries and fatalities still occur. That’s why my office will continue auditing inspections focusing on the temporary and transient carnival rides that present a higher risk throughout the summer. When it comes to public safety, there is no room for error.”

From 2011 through 2013, auditors found the department made 4,800 site visits to inspect rides and issued more than 5,000 permits. During 2013 alone, more than 9,000 individual rides were inspected and nearly 1,700 permits were issued. Inspection records are available for public review here: www.labor.ny.gov/ride-safety.

During the same three-year period, there were 24 injuries or mechanical failures recorded on rides. Two of these were fatalities. In every instance, the ride had been inspected within the previous year and inspectors made a timely response after each incident, including responding on the same day in 11 of 24 cases.

Auditors determined the department was adequately inspecting rides at more than 250 locations including amusement parks, the New York State Fair and many county and regional fairs. However, there was not enough independent information to reach the same conclusion for inspections of the many temporary rides set up by transient operators at many local fairs and traveling carnivals. The department considers these temporary rides to be a higher safety risk and it makes inspecting them a priority each time they are set up.

There were 51 state, county and regional fairs scheduled across New York in 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Only one, the Greene County Fair, was not visited by a Labor Department inspector because of timing and staffing shortages. During visits to some of these smaller festivals, auditors found one ride that was operating without a current permit. The department stated that the ride had in fact been inspected, but that the inspector had forgotten to issue a permit. More significantly, while the department maintained good inspection records detailing where they had been, independent information was lacking on how many small carnivals and fairs occur around the state leaving open the possibility that smaller events could take place without inspection. Because of the absence of independent information on when and where these smaller fairs and festivals occur, auditors are conducting additional site visits throughout the summer to check inspections.

The Department of Labor’s Division of Safety and Health oversees amusement park ride safety outside of New York City through its Industry Inspection Unit. New York City regulates rides within the five boroughs. All rides are to be inspected at least once each year in order to obtain an annual permit.

Department officials, who generally agreed with the audit’s findings, submitted a response which is included in the audit.

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