09/11/07 — N.C. Labor Commissioner talks fair

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N.C. Labor Commissioner talks fair

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on September 11, 2007 1:45 PM

N.C. Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry did not talk about being the first woman to hold her post. She did not talk about politics or minimum wage.

She talked to the Goldsboro Kiwanis Club about fair rides during her lunch visit Monday.

The Elevator and Amusement Bureau is just one part of what makes up the state Department of Labor, she said. But with the fair starting in a little more than two weeks, its role is important.

The bureau is charged with inspecting all amusement rides, temporary and permanent.

"Some states don't even inspect their rides," Mrs. Berry said.

But North Carolina does, she said, and to a pretty high standard.

"We have the toughest inspection in the nation, well actually in the world, but we will just say in the nation," she said. "We have what we call the 100 percent rule, which means that the ride must be up to manufacturer's specifications at all times."

Other states, she said, will allow amusement companies to use a ride even if there is a defect.

"Some states will allow a seat that doesn't work to be tied off, and they can still run the ride," she said. "We don't do that in North Carolina."

The bureau inspects everything on the ride from top to bottom.

"And that's true for every time the ride is assembled and disassembled," she said.

The rides can't move without inspection either.

"If they move that ride one foot, it is inspected again," she said.

Inspection standards might not be on the minds of a Ferris wheel rider, but safety might.

And Mrs. Berry and her department are up to par on that area as well.

"Last year, there were more than two million rides," she said. "There were no recorded mechanical failures. Most of the problems we have are because of rider error, which means the public did something stupid."

She said that people standing up on rides is one of those stupid actions. Children with loose clothing and long hair that isn't tied back are a few others.

Mrs. Berry encouraged parents to have their children participate in the department's rider safety program. This year's theme is "Measure Up to Safety," which logs the height of children and gives them a sticker they can wear, making it easier to tell if they are tall enough to ride.

"The safety mechanisms, the harnesses, the lap restraints -- they are designed to protect people of a certain height and above," she said.

She added that to have the safest events, parents must keep their children off fences around the rides and from dodging line barriers.

"Kids, in their exuberance, approach a fair in such a state (of excitement)," she said.

And the Labor Department is not just concerned about fairs, Mrs. Berry added.

It is charged with workplace safety, too.

"Each day, every person goes to work and comes home healthy and safe to their friends and family with all their fingers, toes, arms, legs -- all their body parts," she said. "That's my job."

She talked about keeping the workplace secure with divisions like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

"There are more words in the OSHA standards than in the Bible," she said. "And I can tell you, the Bible is a whole lot more interesting."

She talked about an emphasis in the workplace on education and training.

"It is a regulatory jungle out there for our business community," she said. "We want the business community to see us not as cops but as coaches because we are all on the same team."