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September 30, 2010

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Two people thrown from faulty fairground ride at British Grand Prix

A serial-offending fairground inspection company has appeared in court after two people were thrown out of a faulty fairground ride at Silverstone race circuit.

The incident took place on 6 July 2008, the day of the British Formula One Grand Prix, and the ‘Tagada’ ride was part of a fun fair being held in a field adjacent to the racetrack.

The Tagada is a ground-level spinning machine that bounces its riders as it turns. Riders sit in a round bowl and hold on via bars proved but there are no restraints to secure individuals in place. Sections of seating can be removed so the ride can be folded when it is packed away.

On the day of the incident, two passengers were sat on one of these sections when the seating collapsed while the ride was in motion. They fell backwards out of the ride and landed on the ground. One of them was knocked unconscious but both escaped with only back injuries and bruising.

The HSE’s investigation found that the ride failed due to corroded structural steelwork on the seating. Inspector Karl Howes told SHP that the corrosion was significant and clear to see, and should have been identified by the ride owner, Michael Searle, and during the machine’s annual safety inspection, which was carried out by Fairground Inspection Services (FIS) Ltd.

On 21 July 2008, a Prohibition Notice was issued against the ride, which required Searle to make significant improvements to restore it to a safe condition before it could be returned to service.

Inspector Howes said: “Fairground rides should be exciting but safe. Everyone on this ride faced a real risk, because the owner and inspector failed to comply with the law.

“The two injured men were fortunate because they could easily have suffered more serious injuries.

“It is the responsibility of those who operate, or inspect fairground rides to ensure they carry out their duties thoroughly by identifying and repairing corrosion and wear on the equipment.

“This incident should remind all ride operators and ride examiners that public safety on fairground rides is of paramount importance.”

Searle appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on 30 September and pleaded gulty to breaching s3(2) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £3000 and ordered to pay £1000 in costs.

In mitigation, he told the court that he had no previous convictions and had only owned the ride for nine months before the incident took place. He accepted that he should have identified the corrosion on the ride but said he believed the ride to be safe after it was passed during its annual safety inspection, which was carried out by FIS director Michael Rodgers.

Searle has subsequently completely rebuilt the ride to comply with the Prohibition Notice and it has been permitted to return to service by the HSE.

Rodgers appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £3000 and must pay £1000 towards costs. FIS pleaded guilty to the same offence and was fined £7000 and £2000 in costs.

Rodgers told the court that he had no previous convictions and revealed that the company has now ceased trading.

The court heard that the firm had two previous similar convictions. In November 2009, it was fined £8000 and £1000 in costs after a fairground ride it had declared safe collapsed at a bonfire display in Suffolk.

In June 2010, FIS was sentenced over an incident in which a pod containing passengers on an Orbiter ride detached and flew ten metres through the air. FIS had inspected the ride and deemed it fit for use.

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13 years ago

I am rather surprised that the inspector appears to have escaped with a very light fine, considering that he had a previous conviction for a similar offence and appeared to perjure himself by claiming no previous convictions. Regardless of this, his was the greater failure. The operator was relying on the inspector’s professional advice and skill which was lacking.

Hopefully there are any safeguards to ensure that the inspector cannot set up another inspection company and repeat the failures.

13 years ago

The director did not have any previous convictions himself. But the company did have previous convictions.

13 years ago

Simple questions for investigating officers / inspectors, if OK to use? .. 3 answers in 1 dependent on reply .

Have you personally ever been convicted of health and safety related criminal offence? If “YES” when were you convicted and what for? … and …

Have you been a responsible Director, Manager or Partner of or in an organisation or company which has been convicted of health and safety related criminal offences? If so when and what was conviction for?