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As State Fair kicks-off, Department of Labor assures patrons of amusement park ride safety

Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report
Allen McElyea, chief amusement ride inspector for the Oklahoma Department of Labor, inspects a roller coaster at the Great State Fair of Oklahoma.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- As the Great State Fair of Oklahoma kicks off Thursday, visitors to the fair will enjoy amusement park rides which, according to the Oklahoma Department of Labor, are among the safest and most-inspected rides in the country.

Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston, along with fair partners Frank Zaitshik and Wade Shows, addressed the Oklahoma Department of Labor’s role in inspecting amusement rides at the Oklahoma State Fair. Oklahoma is one of a small number of states that regulate amusement rides and a ride must pass inspection before being in operation, she said.

Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston addresses the Oklahoma Department of Labor’s role in inspecting amusement rides at the Oklahoma State Fair. (Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report) 

“The Great State Fair of Oklahoma opens tomorrow,” Houston said. “Oklahoma is one of only 30 states that regulate amusement park rides. Some states just turn in insurance forms. Some states have no regulation. In Oklahoma, all rides are registered, ride operators provide proof of insurance, our inspectors inspect all the rides, the State Fair has a third-party inspector and Wade Shows has a third-party inspector.”

With multiple levels of inspections, inspectors with the Oklahoma Department of Labor undergo national training on how to inspect amusement rides. As rides came off the trucks this week in preparation for the fair, state employees were on hand to inspect “every bolt, belt and seat,” she said.

“The Department of Labor inspectors will be on site throughout the entirety of the fair,” she said. “Amusement park ride safety is very much a partnership. The owners are certainly doing their part, the operators are doing their part and the Department of Labor is doing our part. It’s important that the patrons of the fair do their part as well.”

Houston said parents and patrons should obey ride restrictions and rules, especially those that have height regulations.

“One of the biggest challenges we have with ride safety is ride restrictions. As a parent, if you see the ‘You must be this high to ride,’ that is not a test of the maturity of your child. That is actually an engineering schematic for restraint systems,” she said.

The Department of Labor’s reassurance that all rides at the state fair are inspected thoroughly came after a lethal accident in July at the Ohio State Fair. At that fair, seats detached from a spinning pendulum ride, which killed one person and injured seven others.

Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota do not conduct any oversight, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

“Oklahoma is a model for the rest of the country on amusement ride safety,” said Houston. “Certainly any time an incident occurs like in Ohio, it causes us to pause and ask if there is more we could do.”

In July, the "Fire Ball" ride collapsed at the Ohio State Fair, killing one and injuring seven others. After an investigation, the deadly accident was attributed to excessive corrosion of components of the ride. 

The Great State Fair of Oklahoma has 75 amusement park rides this year, including a new 153-foot Ferris wheel.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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