It's the start of summer carnival season, and parents bringing their children to this week's Saratoga County Fair or any other fair through the fall have reasonable assurances that the big Ferris wheels, spinning Wave Swingers and giant slides are safe to ride.
The kind of portable amusement rides that move from fair to fair by the truckload, tearing down in one town Sunday night and ready for business Tuesday morning, must pass a state Department of Labor safety inspection each time they are set up at a new location.
Amusements of America was setting up Monday at the Saratoga County Fair, which opens Tuesday in Ballston Spa.
Department of Labor spokesman Cullen Burnell said inspections involve a three-step process: As rides are brought into a fair or festival location, each individual part and component of each individual ride is inspected for defects; the ride is inspected again after assembly; and the operator is required to run the ride, and it is then inspected again. The person operating the ride is also observed to be sure they are operating it correctly.
The inspector places inspection tags on each ride after it has passed inspection. No ride that fails an inspection is permitted to operate, but these tags allow families to see plainly that the ride has been inspected and deemed safe. Information on the tag includes the name of the ride and the name of the inspector, the date it was inspected and whether it passed or failed, Burnell said.
Inspectors typically work solo, except at large events like the New York State Fair, Burnell said.
In 2016, the Department of Labor performed nearly 1,600 inspections on more than 9,000 amusement devices and issued more than 2,900 orders to correct violations. Inspectors have the authority to take rides out of service if they believe they are unsafe.
No system is foolproof, of course: On June 24, a 14-year-old Delaware girl fell from the Sky Ride — a permanent ride — at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury. The girl fell 25 feet but was caught by bystanders and not seriously hurt; the ride passed subsequent Department of Labor inspection.
The Labor Department, which has statutory responsibility for the inspections in the entire state outside New York City, also maintains a website that offers tips for both parents and children to remain safe while enjoying a carnival ride: don't horse around, keep hands and legs in the ride and restrain long hair and loose clothes, for example.
“I encourage concerned parents to utilize the various online resources available and keep a look out for the Department of Labor’s tags on the rides themselves to verify they’ve been inspected," state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said last month. "Credit is due to the hardworking inspectors in the field who carefully examine each and every ride to make sure they’re safe for use.”
The Department of Labor has the authority to issue citations and take rides out of service if they believe they are unsafe.
A list of the events that have been inspected and the businesses that own them, broken down by region, is available at http://www.labor.ny.gov/ride-safety. A list of the events that have been inspected and the businesses that own them, broken down by region, is also available at the same site.
The department noted that most citations are quickly corrected, and a past citation doesn't mean a ride is unsafe, though the citation continues to appear in the data base.
SARATOGA COUNTY FAIR
HOURS: 9 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Sunday. Midway rides, noon to midnight daily.
LOCATION: County Fairground, Prospect Street and Fairground Avenue, Ballston Spa.
ADMISSION: $12 general; children under age 12 and active military free; number of special discounts.