Are Fairgrounds Safe?
I think its perfectly reasonable for anyone to ask ‘Are Fairgrounds Safe’. Modern rides are higher, faster and far more thrilling than the staid ferris wheel and dodgems of yesteryear. But does this make them unsafe?
Add to this a far more comprehensive annual testing regime, and stricter health and safety enforcement and you have a vast improvement in place.
Modern rides not only have the benefit of far better material quality, they also have computerised safety systems to monitor everything, and we have a far better understanding of things like metal fatigue etc.
The Human Factor
There is one final piece of the puzzle though that is much harder to crack. That is the human factor. The vast majority of operators are perfectly professional, with H&S at the front of their minds everytime they operate. Sadly, like any other industry in the UK, if not the world, there are occasional cowboys.
Miss an inspection here, or disable a wind meter so you can keep going when its blowing a bit. 999 times out of a 1000 nothing happens. Its that rare combination of factors that coincide to create an accident that catches them out.
I fly light aircraft for fun. When I started I studied every accident report I could get my hands on, my theory being I would rather learn from someone else’s mistake than my own.
Experts who have made a career investigating accidents in aviation, state that on average there are seven steps that line up before an aircraft has an accident. The pilot may be an unsafe one, but has got away with it in the past because all seven steps haven’t happened together. Its a bit like swiss cheese, all the holes have to line up before things go wrong.
The other major human factor are the customers. No amount of warning signs, safety belts etc are enough to stop some people. They seem infected with the lemming gene, and are determined to remove themselves from the gene pool. Are fairgrounds safe, perhaps should read are people safe to be allowed on a fairground.
When It All Goes Wrong
A long time ago, when I was still a kid, I remember a fatal accident on a fairground we were at. The ride was what we refer to as swinging gyms. Basically they are a large cage that 4 people enter. By rocking the cage backwards and forwards, they build enough momentum up to go over the top as it were.
Now this particular day, a guy decided that he was going to assist his friends from the outside. He climbed the 6ft safety fence around the perimeter of the ride. And ran to push the cage. Sadly, he tripped and fell face down on the platform as the cage was in the air. As it descended it landed on him and crushed him. His family won’t feel that fairgrounds are safe. But was that the fairgrounds fault.
Is that a genuine accident. The ride had been tested and find to be perfectly safe within H&S guidelines. Indeed it was retested immediately after the accident and passed again. It was surrounded by a 6ft tall fence, not something you could just hop over, it took effort to get over it. There were plenty of warning signs about. Yet a young man still managed to put himself in that awful situation. So what more could have been done to stop him?
I regularly see parent with young children on a fairground, who get talking to their friends then allow their kids to wander about unsupervised. You wouldn’t do this in a factory with machinery, or on the edge of a busy road, so please don’t do it on a funfair. Similarly height restrictions on rides are there for a reason, the amount of arguments we have had with parents, because there child is a couple of inches shorter than the safety height and they want them to be allowed on is frightening. Why would you intentionally want to put your child at risk.
From the point of view of finding out if a ride is safe. All professional rides currently fall under the ADIPS scheme. This is the Amusement Device Inspection Procedure Scheme. Basically it is like an annual MOT for a ride. It covers electrical and mechanical safety. It includes non destructive testing for cracks in the metalwork. Electrical safety checks, checks that barriers and safety devices are fit for purpose.
If you are hiring a ride, ask for the ADIPS paperwork. This should contain an image of the ride in the top right hand corner. Along with a registration number.
You can contact ADIPS via their website to check that a rides test number is valid, and if there are any previous safety related issues.
Similarly any respectable ride operator will have £10 million public liability insurance. If you ask them are fairgrounds safe, they should not take offence and be quite happy to tell you of the steps they take to ensure this.
Perhaps we should look at the Health and Safety Executives own opinion when asked are fairground safe. They have stated in the past that you are far more likely to be injured on the way to the fair, than you are once you get there.