November 5, 2014
Feld Entertainment, Inc. – the company that runs Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus – has been slapped with the maximum possible OSHA fine for its role in causing a serious circus accident that ended up severely hurting nine of the circus’ employees. In the official citation to Feld Entertainment, OSH
A cited the company $7,000, the most the law allows for, and deemed that the circus accident was the result of a “serious safety violation.”
Serious safety violations are those in which:
- A workplace hazard exists.
- The employer knew or should have known about this hazard.
- This hazard results in a significant risk of serious or fatal injuries.
Feld Entertainment has 15 business days from the date of the citation to get in compliance with the citation (and pay the penalties), contest the citation or request a meeting with the local OSHA director. Given that the citation was issued on November 4th, Feld must respond by November 25th or face the possibility of incurring additional penalties.
Details of the Circus Accident
According to OSHA officials, this circus accident occurred on May 4th in Providence, Rhode Island when an overstrained carabiner used in the “Hair Hang Act” broke, causing eight performers to fall more than 15 feet to the ground. A ninth circus employee who had been standing on the ground beneath the suspended performers was also severely injured as a result of these performers falling on top of him.
According to documents associated with the OSHA investigation, employees of Feld Entertainment violated standard industry practices, as well as manufacturer’s directions, regarding loading the carabiner used in the Hair Hang Act. Specifically, instead of only loading the carabiner at two points along the device’s major axis, staff loaded the carabiner at three points, severely overloading the device.
Under the pressure of excessive weight, the carabiner broke and dropped the eight suspended performers.
As Jeffrey Erskine, an acting deputy regional administrator in OSHA’s New England regional office, noted:
Equipment failures can lead to tragic results. To prevent these types of incidents, employers need to not only ensure that the right equipment is being used, but also that it is being used properly. The safety and well-being of employees depend on it.
Denver Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at the Bisset Law Firm
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