A fairground ride manufacturing company, its director and two ride assessors have been sentenced after a catalogue of errors led to a teenage rider being ejected from a brand new extreme ride at a festival in Hertfordshire.
The student, who was 14 at the time, was attending the Sonisphere music festival at Knebworth Park in Stevenage on 1 August 2009 when the incident happened.
As he was riding the Orbitor Extreme ride, which was only on its third outing after being handed over from the manufacturer to its new owner, the student suddenly came free from the ride’s car harness and was propelled through the steel perimeter fence panels.
The young rider suffered life-threatening injuries including a torn aorta, broken ribs and shoulder, and a shattered ankle. He had to be treated by emergency services and was in hospital for a week. He later had to have his ankle pinned.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which today (Friday 4 July) prosecuted Perrin Stevens Ltd, the manufacturers of the ride, director Perrin Stevens and ride examiners Dr Martyn Lacey and Mr Frederick Meakin, for safety breaches at Cambridge Crown Court.
Inspectors told the court 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 – all of which are required by law. Crucially, that included the failure to make an adequate analysis that the restraint system was of suitable dimensions to hold typical riders.
In addition, numerous discrepancies in the documentation for each stage also revealed design, design review and initial test processes had not been carried out adequately – resulting in the eventual use of a completely unsafe ride.
Perrin Stevens, of Kimbers Lane Farm, Oakley Green Road, Windsor, Berkshire, as sole director of Perrin Stevens Ltd, was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Perrin Stevens Ltd, of Fitzherbert Road, Farlington, Portsmouth, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,000 after pleading guilty to the same offence.
Martyn Lacey, of Main Road, Gedling, Nottingham, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Frederick Meakin, of Five Counties Caravan Park, Stretton Road, Greetham, Rutland, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 after pleading guilty to a similar breach.
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.”
For HSE guidance for fairgrounds, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/entertainment/fairgrounds/