Ride builder and assessors fined after accident

Court hammerA ride manufacturer, its director and two assessors have been fined after a “catalogue of errors” led to a teenager suffering life-threatening injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Perrin Stevens Ltd, director Perrin Stevens and ride inspectors Martyn Lacey and Frederick Meakin, for safety infractions at Cambridge Crown Court.

The 14-year-old child was riding the Orbitor Extreme ride at the Sonisphere music festival at Knebworth Park in Stevenage on 1 August 2009.

The travelling ride was on only its third visit for operation since it was manufactured, the HSE website said, describing it as a “brand new” ride.

Life-threatening injuries

The boy “suddenly came free” from the ride’s restraints and was thrown through its steel perimeter fencing.

He suffered injuries which were described as life-threatening, and spent a week in hospital with a torn aorta, broken shoulder and ribs, and a “shattered” ankle.

Speaking in court on 4 July, the HSE inspectors said that their investigation uncovered a number of serious defects which were not picked up at any of the ride’s design, testing or sign-off stages.

The incident took place at the Sonisphere event in 2009

The incident took place at the Sonisphere event in 2009

Crucially, that included the failure to make an adequate analysis that the restraint system was of suitable dimensions to hold typical riders, they said.

Stevens was fined £3,000 in fines and £3,000 in costs, while his company was £2,000 with £3,000 costs.

Inspectors Lacey and Meakin were fined £8,000 each and ordered to pay £10,000 each.

All four defendants pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

‘Entirely preventable’

Following the case, HSE Inspector Stephen Manley said:

“Fairground machinery is designed to provide people attending fairs with an exciting, fun time without exposing them to serious danger.

“There are defined procedures to follow to make sure rides are safe when they are designed, built and used. These must be respected at all times, as they are by the majority of operators in the industry.

“In this instance, not one of the parties involved properly fulfilled their duties, and the outcome was a very serious but entirely preventable incident, which could easily have cost a young teenager his life.

“Luckily, no one died this time, but this incident should serve as a lesson to fairground owners, ride manufacturers and examiners that cutting corners is unacceptable and will lead to putting lives at risk.”