In the summer, many vacationers and families from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey drive to the Jersey Shore. One of the favorite past times of most vacationers is to go on the rides at the boardwalk. So who maintains the rides? Are the rides safe? What happens if there is an accident and someone gets injured?
The New Jersey Division of Codes and Standards, a part of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), governs ride safety in amusement parks and carnivals to ensure the safety of these rides for the public pursuant to the Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act. NJAC 5:14A-1.1 – 5:14A-13.5, which was only implemented in the recent years. The Act provides responsibilities not only for the owner and manufacturer of the rides, but also the rider. The Act has 13 Subchapters, but only a few chapters of interest will be addressed in this article. The entire act can be found on DCA’s website.
Subchapters 2 and 4 address the owners and manufacturers’ responsibility with regard to maintaining the rides. Prior to a ride being open to the public, the DCA requires the owner and manufacturer of the ride to submit documentation for review regarding all carnival and amusement rides. These documents result in an annual inspection and permit to operate the ride in New Jersey. In addition, the rides are inspected by DCA prior to the ride is open to the public
Other than annual inspections by DCA, the owners must inspect and test the ride on each day of intended use. The inspection and test shall be made by a qualified person experienced and instructed in the proper assembly and operation of the device and shall be performed before the ride is put into normal operation.
Subchapter 3 addresses the riders’ responsibility. The Act basically says that a rider shall comply with the written warnings and directions posted by the operator of the ride, which include rider conduct signs; height, weight and size restrictions. § 5:14A-3.2. It also states that if a rider is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, prescription drug or other controlled substance, he/she shall not board the ride. § 5:14A-3.3
What happens if there is an accident? The Act requires the owners to report the accident. There are two types of incident reporting requirements: 1) Shut down and report and 2) report within 24 hours.
«Shut down and report» involves any incidents of death or serious injury, ejection from the ride or failure of a critical structural or mechanical component, regardless of cause. The owner must shut down the ride and report it immediately to the Department by phone and prepare a written report and fax it to the Department within 24 hours of incident. The ride stays shut down until opened by the Department. NJAC 5:14A-14.3(a).
«Report within 24 hours» involves any ride-related injury requiring first aid, or any mechanical malfunction, or an emergency evacuation of the ride. The owner needs to report the incident to the Department within 24 hours by fax or phone. Owner then has 5 days to submit a written report to the Department. NJAC 5:14A-14.3(b).
Lastly, the owner is also supposed to keep a log of all incidents not reported to the Department that involve any ride-related injury or complaint. NJAC 5:14A-14.3(c).
With the regulations implemented in the recent years, safety has improved. In fact, New Jersey’s 2009 summer season was free of serious injuries on roller coasters, Ferris wheels and log flumes, as reported by New Jersey State Officials.
It is important to keep in mind that regulations alone cannot prevent accident and injuries, riders must also be mindful of the safety issues. Read ALL of the warnings and requirements for the ride. For example, do not rely on the ride operator to enforce the height requirement. If you have young children with you who do not meet the ride height requirement, do not let him or her get on even if the ride operator lets them.
With stringent regulations and responsible riders, let’s hope the 2010 summer season is also free of serious injuries.
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