Safety at forefront as state's largest fair gets ready to open

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- With a series of accidents at amusement parks across the state and the country, the Washington State Fair is reassuring the public that measures are being taken to make sure rides are safe.

The fair, which opens in Puyallup on September 2, is expected to draw more than a million people.

In additional to annual third-party safety inspections that are certified by the state, each ride at the fair will also undergo an electrical inspection, according to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Rides that are up-to-date on their inspections will have a yellow sticker that should be visible to riders.

“It would have the name of the ride, it would have the date that the permit expires, and then it would also have the specific serial number for that ride,” said Jose A. Rodriquez, assistant director of Field Services and Public Safety for L&I. “So anybody going to one of these amusement rides should be looking for this sticker.”

L&I is the agency that would be called on to investigate any incidents involving a ride at the fair, the last of which happened in 2009 when a mechanical swing tipped over.

Of the 1,100 rides with current permits in the state, L&I said only 19 “cease and desist” orders have been issued so far this year, with the majority of those orders pertaining to minor issues with bouncy houses.

On top on state regulations, the fair said it also conducts additional maintenance checks before and after doors open.

“Whether it’s an old ride, or a brand new ride, we do routine maintenance checks every day all day,” said Stacy Howard, a spokesperson for the Washington State Fair. “Everything from restraints, to making sure that everything is greased up like it’s supposed to be. So every fine detail that pertains to that ride.”

In addition, Howard said each ride must go through three revolutions or cycles before it opens to the public each day.

“So if our gates open at 10am, you can be rest assured that it’s gone through three cycles before your child gets on that ride,” she said.

Both Howard and L&I also stressed the importance of personal responsibly and good rider behavior. They urged attendees to follow height and weight requirements and pay close attention to posted signs that outline rules for each ride.

Rodriguez encouraged parents to keep a close eye on ride operators to spot unsafe behavior.

“Does it look like they're paying attention to what they're doing? Does it look like they know what they're doing? Once you get on the ride, does it look like they're taking advantage and using all of the safety equipment that's available, or is everybody putting on their own seatbelts?”

Riders or parents with concerns about any ride or operator should contact a fair employee or file a complaint with L&I immediately.