The Hot Springs Showmen's Club sponsored a safety seminar featuring a National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Official's (NAARSO) certification test. The seminar was informative and covered many areas including rides, games, food and insurance issues. Experts presented helpful tips and suggestion for how safety can be improved on the midway.
One of the hottest topics at the seminar concerned dart games on the midway. One insurance company said they were close to stop insuring all dart games due to the large number of claims they have had on these games.
Some safety tips include:
- Use sharp darts, don't use old balloons that wont bust easily
- Don't allow the kids to throw the darts sideways; show them how to throw them properly.
- Never keep darts laying on the counter until they have paid for the dart.
- Allow only one player at a time
- The border around the board should go from top to bottom and from side to side. It should be solid and not be made of canvas or plush
- Dart boards should be at least 4-8 feet back from the customer to give the dart more room to fall if it bounces back at them.
Some operators have started hanging balloons on wooden dowels to give the balloons some place to go once a dart hits it so it doesn't bounce the dart back at the thrower or spectators. If the balloon has some "give" to it, it will deflect the dart in a different direction.
Insurance inspectors will be looking for awnings that are pinned, chocked wheels, GFCI outlets, and the placement of breaker boxes so they are out of the reach of kids.
Rocken Graphics has a balloon dart sign that is made for dart game operators.
All joints including games should have a fire extinguisher inside.
After the Accident
Another topic of interest at the seminar was what actions should be taken after an accident occurs. Actions taken during the first thirty minutes are critical to a successful completion of a major incident investigation.
All operators should create a "what to do " sheet with the names and numbers of people who are in charge of the scene, any first aid, or emergency numbers that should be on hand for this spot.
A list of things to do and what order they should be completed ensures that nothing is overlooked, because after a major accident nobody will be thinking clearly about all the things to do and not do. All employees should have access to this sheet and go over them with key people once or twice a year.
After an accident occurs, if you go to the scene and look to be tampering with evidence or disturb the scene by accident, it could result in a good case for a lawyer to request triple damages for the victim.
After the scene as been roped off/secured by people, tape, or the police, you should photograph everything all the way around the scene including the people standing around and any victims.
A list should be made of names of victims, their ages and phone numbers and note any injuries and whether or not they request medical attention. A list of witnesses and statements should be taken at this time. This can be done by an employee using a simple yellow tablet.
Any time the police are conducting an investigation they are doing a "criminal " investigation which may be used by the prosecutor to bring charges against the owner or operator. Civil investigations are conducted by private inspectors and they work for the victim or an insurance company. Just because you know someone who is investigating an accident doesn't mean they are "on your side."
All employees should be told to keep all speculation and loose talk away from anyone outside the company. Under no circumstances should anyone including an owner or a family member speak to the media about an accident. All media contact should be made by a third party "uninvolved" in the accident like a lawyer. Anything an owner or staff members says to the media may be used against you or your company.
The seven things that the insurance company looks for when accessing whether or not to insure them are:
- Their Safety Policy statement
- Management direction and support
- Responsibility and Accountability
- Education and Training
- Internal safety inspections and reviews
- Accident investigation
- Record Keeping (Any time you are inspected by the insurance company this is the first thing they will ask for)
Worker's compensation is one of the fastest growing costs in the industry. In the State of Illinois for example, the WC rate there is 104%, effectively doubling your payroll.
The biggest risk in the carnival industry for worker's compensation are moving vehicles. These accidents affect various body parts and happen primarily on Mondays and Tuesdays when the show is moving.
May, June and August are the months that the most claims are filed in the industry. Owners were encouraged to talk to their employees at the beginning of the season or at the beginning of their employment, and hold a refresher in June. This will help a great deal, resulting in fewer claims in the busy summer months.
Females aged 16,17,18 and 23 see the most number of claims while in males the most likely ages are 17, 18, 19, 21, 44, 49 and 51.
The electrical class provided many useful tips for the midway.
- Breakers and fuses protect equipment, GFCI's protect you! Never connect two GFCIs together on the same power cord. All it takes to kill a person is 50 miliamps and a GFCI is set to trip at 30 miliamps. If you connect two together it will ramp up to 60 mili amps before they trip, potentially killing anyone receiving the jolt
- When dealing with electrical wires keep in mind two colors; green and white. These are your ground and neutral wire and assume all other colors are hot until you can find out definitively.
- Breakers trip at 150% of load. This is why we are able to melt a cord but not trip the breaker. According to Phil Slaggert, we are many times guilty for using wire that is not designed to handle the loads that we place on it.
- While there is no federal law or NEC code that says you have to fence off a junction box it does say it must be shut and locked. There must also be a sign to all employees warning them this is a dangerous place containing high voltage.
- There is another NEC code dealing with arc flash explosions and the code states that you should strip, rope off or fence an area of 4 feet on all sides around a junction box for protection.
- Any local ordinances or fire marshal's orders will supersede anything in the NEC as they are in control of the local scene.
- When driving grounding rods for a generator they should be at least 2 feet into the ground and a minimum of 6 feet apart for safety.
- Generators with opposing phases or generators that are not synced up can cause injury. According to Mr. Slaggert, if you have a generator at one end of the lot and another at the other end of the lot, at some point you will have a joint or ride next to one another that will have one powered by one unit and one by the other. In a case where two joints from different generators are together and a person squeezes between joints, if they touch both trailers at the same time it can cause great harm to the person. You should keep everything in this area on separate generators at least 12 feet apart ( NEC recommendation). However, if the two generators are synced or if you run a ground wire from one generator to the other generator's ground rod the problem will be alleviated.
- 525 in the NEC says that you don't ground a junction box, but you ground the "source" ( ie. The Generator)
- When setting up around high tension power lines there are two rules to remember: 1) Lines that are not stepped down with transformers are HIGH TENSION and are 600 volts or greater. Any ride or game must not be closer than 15 feet. 2) After passing though a transformer the wire is now under 600 volts and the rule for placement is: come straight down from the wire then out ten feet on the ground and that is the point where your Safety zone ( fence) starts.
- Inside a breaker box the ground wire and the neutral wires should never be bonded together.
- While wiring breakers in a box, you can not put multiple wires into the same breaker. One wire -- one breaker.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses provide equal access or an equal experience to persons with disabilities. Certain attractions like kiddie rides, inflatables and rockwalls are exempt from this law while game and food concession counters are not.
Signs about guest with disabilities must be carefully worded. You can not make someone sign a waver unless all sign a waver. You can not say they can not ride if they have a disability but you may recommend they not ride. However, if the manufacture's manual states they may not ride then you can legally state that on the sign.
The only legal way you can restrict anyone from riding is from:
1) Manufacture's recommendations
2) State law
3) Expert or engineers recommendations
4) Justifiable company rules as the operator of the equipment.
When creating or posting signs we must watch out for the words "CAN'T" or "MUST"… use the words "We recommend"
An example of a good ADA sign uses the following wording: ""Amusement ride seats are not engineered as one size fits all, therefore, some of our guest may find that it is uncomfortable to ride or may not fit safely into their seats. Please use your own judgment when choosing the rides you want to ride.
When you have porta-johns delivered request that a handicap unit be dropped off and it will provide a service for guests with disabilities and make you look good in the eyes of the public.
Heat from the sun on an inflatable can be as dangerous as high wind in some cases. For example, the "Giant Experience" in England took flight even with tie downs, killing two and injuring countless others.
Keep in mind that before a thunderstorm reaches you there is the dynamics of the downdraft / outflow of cooler air rushing down AHEAD of the storm that will do major damage if we don't start tearing down before the storm arrives.
Stakes should be driven in at least 80% into the ground. Length and diameter of the stakes are determined for each unit by the manufacturer. Stakes can be painted with a white cap at the 80% mark to help employees know how far down they must go.
Records and inspection reports are your insurance companies' defense property. All records and inspection reports should be kept a minimum of two years and possibly longer depending on your insurance company requirements.
The ASTM standards state that the ride operator has to be the one who performs the daily inspection of each ride and not some third party.
One tip offered for rental operators is to rewrite contracts to state that the homeowner/renters own insurance is to cover any equipment rented to them and left in their charge while on their property and ask for a "hold harmless" clause. This may only protect you if their own kid gets hurt because a person can not sign away the rights of other party-goers, even their own kids. The change in the contract may protect your from certain liabilities and will provide another level of protection.
In a court battle the lawyers will want to know who bought the equipment and in whose name it was under. Was it bought in your personal name or in the name of the business? Was it paid for with a company check or credit card or was it with a personal check or credit card? The answers will make a difference when you are sued.
There should always be a pre-opening inspection of every ride/inflatable even if rented to a private party. At a minimum, take the parent or another adult around and have them do the inspection with you since they will be the "operator" of the unit while the operator is not there. Then have them sign off on the form stating they inspected it. At this point, you have complied with ASTM requirements.