It may be a surprise to many people that Pennsylvania has more amusement park rides than any other state including the warm weather states of California and Florida with its mega parks, Disneyland and DisneyWorld, among others. Most of Pennsylvania’s 9,300 registered rides are temporary with 117 considered permanent.
Pennsylvania has had only one amusement park related death since 2001, but there are up to 1,000 injuries reported each year although there may be numerous others that go unreported. This fact may be just part of the recent revelation by PublicSource that over half of the state’s permanent parks and water parks did not turn in the required yearly inspection reports for 2012.
This was news to Walter Remmert, director of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards, the chief regulator and overseer of the state’s rides. According to Mr. Remmert, he was unaware of the missing inspection reports. By law, certified inspectors have to turn in affidavits stating that inspections of all park rides happen on a monthly basis. The failure to turn in a report by a park is supposed to result in fines, warnings and possible closure of rides.
One high profile offender was Scranton’s Sno Cove Water Park at the Sno Mountain ski resort. Apparently, it operated all of 2012 without a single inspection. Another park that filed no reports was Fun Station in the Poconos.
Private inspectors may be a park employee, owner or outside contractor. They are supposed to inspect the major components of a ride such as its brakes, seat belts and latches every 30 days and sign an affidavit for the state. Anyone who goes on rides at these parks may be mortified to learn that many parks are not undergoing the required monthly inspections or may not have not been inspected at all for perhaps a year or more.
Lack of Inspectors
The state, however, is the enforcer. Its inspectors have the authority to do on-site inspections. They can also shut down any ride an inspector deems unsafe. Unfortunately, the state has only four inspectors, which makes it practically impossible to police all rides. When a park fails to turn in inspection reports, it also will not report any accidents. A park must report any incident in which an injury leading to hospitalization occurs.
State budgets are tight. No business welcomes regulation. Still, the failure of the state to enforce its own laws. The failure of these parks and fairs to adhere to basic inspections does not excuse them from possible legal liability for any resultant amusement park injuries or deaths.
Owners Have a Duty to Prevent Amusement Park Injuries
When a Pennsylvania business profits from its customers, no matter what type of business, there is an obligation to protect its guests from dangerous conditions on its property. When it comes to amusement park and fair businesses, I believe this obligation is even more important because amusement park and fair rides can be dangerous. Business owners and operators must be absolutely certain that all safety systems for all rides are as strong and reliable by law. They must protect their customers who are paying to enjoy the thrill these rides provide.
Owners must check safety precautions regularly. In the case of water parks and water slides, adequate precautions prevent riders from injuries at high speeds. They can keep park visitors from slipping on water on nearby surfaces.
Pennsylvania has more registered rides than any other state in the country. The operators of these amusement parks and fairs have the primary responsibility to protect their customers. It is the amusement park and fair owners who profit from their customers. These owners are in the best position to protect their customers. They are ultimately responsible for providing a safe, fun experience for its customers.
Safety Over Profit
Owning and operating an amusement park or fair can be a very profitable business. Creating and enforcing rules that keep amusement parks and fairs safe for their customers cost money. Obviously, owners and operators can increase profits by ignoring safety and taking risks.
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