“We’ve already been here for three weeks at least and once the park opens we will have put our hands on every ride in the park,” said Ron Dean, one of the state’s amusement ride inspectors.
Ensuring the safety of rides at Ohio’s permanent parks such as Cedar Point and Kings Island, as well as the dozens of festivals and county fairs, falls on the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Department officials recently gave reporters a brief rundown at Cedar Point of how the process works and what inspectors are looking for when they examine rides.
“Ohio has one of the more robust ride safety programs of any place in the United States,” Ohio Agriculture Director Dave Daniels said. “We want to let everybody know that we’re proud of the partnerships we’ve got with the responsible operators, we’re proud of the staff we’ve got that works each and every day.”
Though the state has just eight ride inspectors, every attraction must be cleared before the beginning of the tourism season. For Cedar Point, that starts with opening weekend on May 6.
Mr. Dean said inspectors work from the ground up, checking foundations and supports, passenger trains, safety harnesses and latches, and the ride’s operation. Inspectors also do periodic spot checks throughout the operating season.
He said they rarely uncover any problems.
“These things are coming out of their winter rehab. Their maintenance staff literally takes these things in [and] tears them completely apart,” he said. “This stuff’s like a brand new car rolling off the showroom floor. There really isn’t a lot that we find.”
Though the Department of Agriculture says the state’s parks, including Cedar Point, have good safety records, there have been a handful of incidents in recent years.
In 2013, a water ride overturned at Cedar Point, injuring seven people — one seriously enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. And in 2015, a man was killed when he was hit by the Raptor coaster after scaling a fence and entering a restricted area in an attempt to retrieve a hat.
Even so, those kinds of incidents are rare, and officials say the rides are constantly monitored for safety.
“It’s a very cautious industry here and we take our charge to protect the public very, very seriously,” said Monte Jasper, vice president of safety and engineering for Cedar Fair. Cedar Point in Sandusky is Cedar Fair’s hallmark coaster park, but it owns amusement parks and water parks across the country.
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