RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Every year, crowds of people head to Raleigh seeking the spins, speed and heights of amusement rides at the North Carolina State Fair.
“To me, it’s like astronaut training. A lot of these rides, you do gyroscopic moves… It’s exciting! It’s something you don’t get to do every day,” said Dennis Brown.
Brown is an inspector with the North Carolina Department of Labor, helping make sure nearly 100 rides at the fair are safe and certified to operate. He said, “We do the same thing with every ride, look for cracked welds, everything that we can look at while it’s down low, and as the ride goes up we’ll come back and inspect again. Each ride gets inspected multiple times.”
Not only does the N.C. State Fair have one of the largest assortments of amusement rides for an 11-day fair in North America, but the state also has some of the strictest laws for rides and inspections.
Brown said, “Just the fact that we inspect it every time it’s set up—some states will do it once a year.” He added, “We want to keep our people in North Carolina as safe as possible, that’s really it. It really comes down to public safety. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt and there’s no need to not inspect a ride. We have the men to do it and the expertise, so why not?”
Inspectors are not only making sure operators are at least 18 years old and knowledgeable about safely operating their rides, but crews are also inspecting rides from the moment they arrive on the fairgrounds. Brown said they check to make sure each ride is operating properly, which includes checking restraints, stop switches, trip hazards and overall mechanical operation.
“That’s when most of your damage will occur is in tear down and transit, so that’s why we inspect them every time they get set up,” Brown said.
Rides that don’t meet the manufacturer’s specifications 100% will not be certified or able to open until adjustments are made.
The safety and inspection of rides continues to be prioritized especially after five people were injured at the fair 10 years ago on a ride called the “Vortex.” The ride suddenly jerked into motion while people were exiting. Not only were people seriously injured, but the operator of the attraction was also charged with felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
In addition to making sure rides operate properly, inspectors are also making sure each ride is insured and is issued a metal N.C. Identification Tag, as well as a manufacturer’s data tag that includes the ride speed, capacity, serial number and the date of manufacture. The Amusement Device Safety Act also requires that rides are checked daily by operators even after they have been certified.
Brown said it’s actually very rare for rides to malfunction; instead, most injuries they see are created by human error. Brown said it’s important to be aware of long nails and hair and pay attention to the operators and rules for each ride.
If you plan to head out to the N.C. State Fair, you can also check out new rides that include Techno Jump, Wipeout, Tesla AC and a Venetian Carousel.