During the course of the 21-day Washington State Fair, hundreds of thousands of youth and adults will ride one or more of the 70 rides managed and operated by Funtastic LLC, and most will walk away happy and unscathed.
But nationwide over the summer, the assurance of amusement park and fair ride safety has been in question. One of the more high profile cases happened in August when a 10-year-old boy was killed on a water slide in Kansas. According to the National Safety Council, the number of ride-related injuries has been more than 1,000 nationwide each year since 2001, when the NSC began its survey.
In Washington state, the Department of Labor and Industries provides oversight on the manual and electrical inspection of amusement park rides.
“We certify amusement park inspectors,” L&I spokesman Matthew Erlich said. “Our electrical inspectors go out and make sure rides have a current permit and check electrical alignments.”
Funtastic has a good track record for ride safety, with only one incident involving injuries, which occurred in 2009 at the Spring Fair when a swing ride toppled, Erlich said.
“Funtastic rarely makes modifications on rides,” said Stacy Howard, public relations manager at the Washington State Fair. “Throughout the country, we’re finding out accidents occur because modifications are being made. (Funtastic) will never make modifications unless they’re recommended by the manufacturer.”
According to the L&I website, state law stipulates that all amusement rides are to be inspected annually for mechanical and electrical safety. Also, each time a ride is set up an electrical inspection is conducted.
“Before and during and after, routine maintenance checks are done round the clock,” Howard said. “To ensure safety, each day before gates are opened every ride has gone through three revolutions to make sure that it is riding correctly. The (ride) operator has the autonomy to stop the ride. Guests have that autonomy; they can call out and have the ride be stopped.”
Erlich encourages parents to use common sense. Check to make sure a state permit is posted on the ride, which ensures the ride has been inspected and approved. Observe how the ride is being operated, Erlich said, and make sure the ride operator is attentive. Also, check to ensure seatbelts are working properly.
“Remember that while annual inspections are a safeguard, normal operating wear and tear or other unforeseen circumstances may still result in an accident,” Erlich noted.
Howard said Washington State Fair staff and Funtastic want everyone to have fun and be safe.
“We highly recommend following the height restrictions and staying off the rides if you’re experiencing a prior injury,” Howard said.
For a safety checklist, visit lni.wa.gov/amusementrides.