09/28/05 — Inspectors watch carefully as fair rides are assembled

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Inspectors watch carefully as fair rides are assembled

By Turner Walston
Published in News on September 28, 2005 1:52 PM

With the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair just days away, employees of Powers Great American Midway were busy Tuesday afternoon assembling the Zipper, the Wave Swinger, the Spider and 45 more rides that will thrill fairgoers.

Right beside them, employees of the North Carolina Department of Labor watched carefully.

"I wish that all companies that came into the state were as professional, with well-trained employees and well-maintained equipment," said Tom Chambers of the department's Elevator and Amusement Devices Bureau. "They're the standard by which we inspect all shows throughout the state."

Chambers and eight other inspectors are conducting inspections prior to the fair's opening on Thursday.

A preliminary inspection takes place as soon as the rides are off the truck. Once rides are assembled, the inner workings of a ride might not be visible from the exterior.

"We look for items we would not normally see if they were already erected," Chambers said.

Inspectors look carefully at every bolt, screw and pin. On the Tilt a Whirl, carnival employees must install locking pins in front of an inspector.

In recent years, the department has established more specific guidelines for investigating injuries on amusement devices. Additionally, a Rider Safety Campaign has been implemented across the state. Safety tip bookmarks are sent to children and parents. Wayne County fair manager Milton Ingram said 70,000 bookmarks were distributed in Wayne and surrounding counties.

The program is working, Chambers said.

"Last year, we did not record one reportable incident in the 47 fairs across the state," he says. A reportable incident is defined as an injury that requires treatment beyond first aid.

Inspectors are familiar with Powers Great American Midways. The carnival's winter quarters, where rides are refurbished, repaired and rebuilt, is in Burgaw. There, state inspectors train on the Powers rides as well.

Inspection laws are tougher in North Carolina than in other states, Chambers said. Rides must be 100 percent to manufacturers' specifications, without modification by the operators.

"If it's not approved by the manufacturer, it will not be approved by the state of North Carolina," he said.

Ingram said the state's inspection process gives him confidence.

"We want these rides safe for all of our customers," Ingram said. "It makes me feel very secure with the knowledge that all these rides that these people are going to be riding the next 10 days are as safe as they can possibly be."