Inspecting the inspectors: Who is responsible for Ohio’s ride inspection standards?

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Thursday marks three months to the day since the horrible accident at the Ohio State Fair and people are still asking questions as to why. How did inspectors miss the problem?

We wanted to know who’s Inspecting the Inspectors?

In the 61 page Ohio State Highway Patrol report about the accident, at least seven inspectors and ride operators looked at the Fireball. But, no one noticed the excessive corrosion the ride maker said led to the fatal accident. Excessive corrosion is what OSHP blames as a possible cause of the accident.

 Amusement Safety Analyst and Consultant Ken Martin has been inspecting rides for more than 20 years.

“I just don’t understand how different sets of inspectors missed any indication that something was wrong,” he said.

He runs his own business in Virginia. He said recently Ohio has had several incidents that are of concern.

“The inner core of people who proclaim themselves to be safety experts in the United States of America need to step back and they need to take a strong hard look at this,” said Martin.

According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio has eight full-time inspectors who inspect more than 4,000 rides. That’s 500 rides for an inspector in a year.

The ODA said on its website it has one of the best ride inspection programs in the country. ODA Communications Director Mark Bruce said the department is confident in the work of its inspectors to carry out their regulatory duties.

What does it take to be an inspector in Ohio?

Bruce said right now there are no written standards for exactly how inspectors are trained. He said all current inspectors meet standards that will be written and required moving forward.

Bruce said while all of Ohio’s inspectors have previous industry experience, it’s not a requirement and Ohio inspectors don’t have to have any professional certifications such as engineer or electrician.

He said inspectors undergo continuous training, at least a year before going out on their own, and attend annual safety seminars.

So, who’s inspecting the inspectors?

We did some digging and learned across the country and in Ohio it’s up to the states to make and enforce their own rules. What that means is there’s no federal oversight. States like Ohio look to industry standards-setting group ASTM International to set voluntary ride safety standards. On Thursday, Bruce said Ohio follows only some of those standards, but couldn’t say exactly which ones. ASTM said its role isn’t to make sure standards are actually followed.

So who does? Bruce said ODA supervisors and administration oversee inspectors.

ASTM member Franceen Gonzales said the group is now considering new inspection standards in the wake of the Fireball accident.

“They’re going to be scrutinizing the non-destructive testing methods, they’re going to be scrutinizing how people are maintaining rides, they’re going to be scrutinizing the test methods and how they’re measuring,” said Gonzales.

State Representative John Patterson of the 99th District said going forward it’s up to lawmakers to make sure riders are safe.

“Because I sit on the Ag Committee and am the ranking member on the Ag Committee I feel a great deal of responsibility. So, this has been weighing heavily on my mind,” said Rep. Patterson.

Martin said something has to change before it’s too late.

“More people will get hurt and regrettably more people will get killed until the system is satisfactorily implemented that makes regulation the same all across the United States,” said Martin.

The ODA said it’s still investigating and hasn’t released its report yet.

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