December 21, 2006
INFLATABLE AMUSEMENT RIDES
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You want to know if Connecticut and other states regulate the use of inflatable amusement rides and devices (e.g., “Moonwalk”).
Under state law, inflatable amusement rides, except those leased for private residential use, are, like other amusement rides, subject to Department of Public Safety (DPS) oversight. The inflatable amusement ride law took effect on October 1, 2006. DPS is in the process of adopting implementing regulations. Under the law, owners of inflatable amusement rides must be licensed by DPS to operate in Connecticut. DPS must inspect the rides that are the subject of the license application to determine if they are reasonably safe for public use.
Among the other states that regulate inflatable amusement rides are Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Virginia. Typically, the laws address such issues as licensing, insurance coverage, operating standards, enforcement, and reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
This report summarizes the major provisions of the Connecticut law as well as the laws in Arkansas and Massachusetts. These two states were selected because their regulations were readily accessible.
Massachusetts requires that owners of inflatable amusement rides be licensed annually. The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, which regulates the rides, must perform criminal history record checks on ride owners, and owners must ensure that ride operators and other specified employees undergo such checks as well. Inflatable rides must have a valid department permit and be inspected for safety and compliance with state laws and regulations and manufacturer and industry standards. When any large inflatable ride, such as a “Moonwalk”, is set up, the department must inspect it. Ride owners must carry liability insurance (at least $1 million per incident or occurrence for small rides and at least $2 million aggregate for large ones).
Arkansas requires inflatable rides to be inspected by the state at least every six months. Each ride must carry liability insurance for at least $1 million per incident or occurrence. Ride owners must notify the Labor Department, which regulates rides, every time they set up a ride, and the operator must have the insurance certificate available on site for inspection by the department. No license or permit is required to operate the rides.
A new law, which took effect October 1, 2006, adds inflatable amusement rides to the types of amusement rides subject to DPS licensing and regulation (PA 06-42).
Prior law regulated open-air circuses or carnivals, including places where mechanical rides or devices capable of holding more than four people are presented for amusement or entertainment. The new law applies to any type of passenger ride (mechanical and non-mechanical) normally requiring an operator, irrespective of the passenger load. It exempts inflatable rides and devices leased for private residential use from DPS licensing and regulation (CGS § 29-133, as amended by PA 06-42). DPS may allow variations from, or equivalent or alternative compliance with, the laws or regulations if strict compliance would cause exceptional practical difficulty or undue hardship (CGS 29-136, as amended by PA 06-42).
The regulations require operators of mechanical amusement rides to be at least age 18 (Conn. Agency Reg. § 29-136-7a). The new law allows the hiring of certified lifeguards under age 18 to oversee aquatic rides and devices such as pools, water slides, lazy rivers, or interactive play
devices as long as an adult at least age 18 and trained in normal operating and emergency procedures supervises the area with the rides or devices.
Because the law added inflatables to the definition of amusement rides but did not change other statues that currently apply to mechanical rides, the legal effect of the change in some contexts is not always clear. For example, owners operating any place of amusement in what constitutes a public amusement park must have liability insurance (CGS § 29-139). It is unclear whether inflatable ride owners would be required to have such insurance. Typically, inflatable devices are portable devices moved from location to location and disassembled after an event. According to DPS, it is in the process of adopting implementing inflatable ride-specific regulations.
The Labor Department regulates amusement rides in Arkansas. A safety board advises the department on proper enforcement and administration of the laws (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-518). Under the law, amusement rides include “inflatable attractions such as “space walks” inflatable slides, or inflatable jousting or boxing rings” (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-502).
The law exempts from department oversight:
1. non-mechanized playground equipment;
2. coin-operated amusement rides on retail business premises;
3. amusement rides or attractions owned and operated by the state or any of its political subdivisions; and
4. amusement rides or attractions owned and operated by a fair or nonprofit religious, educational, or charitable entities, if the ride or attraction is subject to inspection by the state fire marshal or under any building, fire, electrical, or related public safety ordinances (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-503).
The law does not require owners and operators to be licensed or rides to be registered with the department.
Inspection and Fees
Before any amusement ride owner or operator opens any ride to the public, he must get a safety inspection report from his liability insurer or a Labor Department inspector (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-505). And ride owners must notify the department every time they set up a ride.
Inflatable attractions must be inspected every six months, unless the department establishes a more frequent schedule (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-506(a)(4)(A)). The department may inspect rides on site, at a private home, or at a business. Inspection fees vary from $100 (for one to five rides or attractions) to $600 (for 36 or more rides or attractions).
Liability Insurance Coverage
Ride owners must be covered by liability insurance issued by an authorized insurer against liability for personal injury or property damage for at least $1 million for each incident or occurrence. The owner must keep the certificate of liability insurance for department inspection on the ride site (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-502).
Insurers must inspect rides for safety at least once each calendar year. If they find any ride to be unsafe or cancel the insurance coverage for a ride, they must notify the Labor Department, which must issue an order to close the ride (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-507).
Ride operators must be at least age 16. They (1) must be trained to operate the rides, (2) may operate only one ride at a time, and (3) may not operate any ride while intoxicated (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-511).
The department may issue stop orders to noncompliant operators or owners and may fine them up to $10,000 for the following actions, among others:
1. failing to notify the department of their intent to operate in Arkansas;
2. operating a ride without the required liability insurance;
3. operating without obtaining a current safety inspection report;
4. refusing to allow a safety inspection;
5. operating any ride or attraction red-tagged for non compliance;
6. removing a red-tag from a ride or attraction; or
7. failing to make requested repairs to a ride.
A violation of the law or regulations is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a prison term of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A knowing violation is a class D felony, punishable by a prison term of up to six years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both (Ark. Code Ann. § 23-89-504).
Accident Reports and Recordkeeping
The regulations require owners to report ride failures and accidents to the department. Owners must maintain the following records, among others, for department inspection: proof of insurance coverage, repair and maintenance records, accident reports, and employee training records.
The Department of Public Safety regulates amusement rides under Massachusetts law. Its responsibilities include licensing ride owners and inspecting rides to ensure compliance with industry standards and laws and regulations. An amusement board advises the department and reviews ride safety issues. Department regulations establish general administrative provisions addressing such issues as license and permit issuance, insurance, and ride inspection (520 CMR § 5.00 et seq.).
The regulations define an “amusement device” as “a fixed or portable mechanical device similar to, but not limited to ferris wheels, carousels, rock walls . . . or similar devices, including inflatables (520 CMR § 5.01). They define an inflatable device as “a device of any size that incorporates a structural and mechanical system and employs a high strength fabric or film that achieves its strength, shape, and stability by tensioning from internal air pressure.” The definition does not include devices privately owned or operated or similar inflatable devices that are used for professional exhibition or stunt work, safety and rescue activities, aerial or aviation structures or devices, exhibit floats or similar inflatable devices.
The regulations prohibit the manufacture, sale, or use of inflatable devices that do not comply with pertinent laws and regulations (520 CMR § 5.09).
Owners of amusement devices, including inflatable rides or devices such as Moonwalk or the inflatable house, must be licensed by the department before they begin operating rides in Massachusetts. They must also get a department permit for each ride.
To get the license and permits, applicants must provide the department with an original insurance certificate (at least $1 million for small rides and $2 million for large rides); a list of inflatable device mechanics certified by the department, the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials, or other authorized entity; and other documentation. They must also include with the application a bank check or money order ($25 for each ride listed in the application). All license applicants must undergo a criminal history record check.
When the department issues the license to operate, it issues permits for all the devices listed in the application. The license is valid for one year or until the the insurance certificate expires, whichever happens first.
As a condition of being licensed, owners must grant law enforcement personnel, fire officials, and department inspectors unlimited access to regulated rides.
Owners of large inflatable rides must carry general liability insurance of at least $1 million per occurrence and $2 million aggregate. (A large inflatable is one “that has a surface designed to enable patrons to stand, sit or climb to a height of 12 feet or higher.”) Owners of small inflatables must carry general liability insurance of at least $1 million per occurrence. (A small inflatable is one that “has a surface designed to enable patrons to stand, sit or climb at a height of less than 12 feet.”) Certified inspectors must also have general liability insurance of at least $1 million per occurrence or incident.
The regulations require owners of amusement devices, including inflatables, to perform criminal history record checks on applicants age 18 or older for the following positions:
1. certified maintenance mechanics;
2. maintenance technicians;
3. ride operators;
4. operator's assistants; and
5. certified inflatable device mechanics (520 CMR § 5.00 et seq.).
Owners must train ride operators to operate inflatable devices. They must be at least age 18 and know how to operate the ride. They may not operate any ride while under the influence of alcohol. Operator assistants must be at least age 16.
Ride owners must ensure that operators are monitoring rides when riders are entering, inside, or leaving them, and that the number of riders does not exceed the manufacturer's recommendations. Ride operators must reserve the exclusive right to limit the number of riders. If a ride deflates or someone is injured, the ride operator must immediately order riders out of it and ensure that the injured person gets appropriate medical attention.
Large (but not small) inflatable devices must be inspected by a certified inspector before they may be operated in the state and annually afterwards. A department inspector must inspect large inflatable rides for general safety before they are used. A department inspector may inspect small inflatable devices for compliance anytime the commissioner deems necessary.
Injury Notification and Reports
If a serious injury occurs on an inflatable device or any of its component systems, the owner or ride operator must shut it down and secure it immediately until a state inspector completes an investigation.
The owner must report such injuries to the department within one hour of the incident (except in the case of rented inflatables, which are described below.)
Department Remedies for Noncompliant Manufacturers
The department may close an inflatable ride or device until the manufacturer (1) provides all safety bulletins issued on the device, as well as all of the device's operational and maintenance manuals and (2) complies with any department orders to bring the device into compliance.
The regulations place additional responsibilities on ride owners who rent inflatables to others (520 CMR § 5.09). Before an owner rents any large inflatable device, the state inspector must inspect it to ensure that it is safe and complies with regulations. The state inspector must document and immediately notify the owner or his representative of any safety issues or concerns. He may not certify a ride until issues affecting the ride's safety or integrity are corrected.
Ride Owner Responsibilities for Rented Inflatables. Owners who rent small inflatable devices to others may provide a ride operator or operator assistant for the rides. They must provide (1) an operator or assistant for large inflatable devices, (2) training and instruction to the person who rents the device to ensure that the device is erected and anchored in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications, and (3) complete operating instructions to renters. The information must cover such topics as ride capacity, rider safety guidelines, potential ride hazards, and instructions to minimize the potential for injury.
Accident Reports. If any serious injury occurs on a large inflatable rented ride, the owner or attendant must notify the department within one hour of the incident. The owner or attendant must secure the ride and make it accessible to the department and state inspector.
If a serious injury or incident occurs on a small, inflatable rented ride, the person to whom it was rented must secure it and make it accessible to the department and state inspector. The owner must notify the department as soon as he becomes aware of the incident.
The department may, after a hearing, suspend or revoke a ride owner's license or permit for the following reasons, among others:
1. failing to maintain required records;
2. failing to make department-requested repairs to rides;
3. negligence of the owner, operator or certified maintenance mechanic, or certified inflatable device mechanic with regard to the maintenance, repair, or operation of a ride;
4. continuing to operate a ride without the department's authorization after an incident or accident required to be reported pursuant to regulations;
5. modifying a ride without department approval;
6. operating in a manner likely to cause injury;
7. knowingly submitting false, invalid, incorrect or fraudulent information about the maintenance or design of a ride or its safe operation;
8. failing to provide the department with a proper or timely itinerary or modified itinerary in accordance with regulations;
9. failing to maintain the required insurance; or
10. failing to comply with other specified laws or regulations.
A violation of the laws is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 140 § 205A).
Record Keeping Requirements
Owners must maintain a log with the following records, among others, available for department inspection: maintenance schedules, service and repair reports, and accident and injury reports.