Gov. Henry seeks improved ride safety rules
Oklahoma City - To help preserve amusement ride safety at state and county fairs across Oklahoma, Gov. Brad Henry today asked the state Department of Labor to rewrite new rules governing the regulation of ride operators.
The governor disapproved the agency's first proposal today, saying it would have unintentionally jeopardized ride safety rather than enhanced it. Gov. Henry wants the Labor Department to improve the rules and make sure it has enough manpower to implement them.
Today's action does not affect existing state requirements that mandate all rides be inspected and certified as safe, and that all ride operators meet minimum competency standards.
"My first and only concern is the safety of amusement park rides, and with our existing inspection program, we will ensure that all rides meet state specifications," said Gov. Henry.
"While the proposed rules regarding ride operators were well-intended, they would have caused more problems than they would have addressed, ultimately jeopardizing the safety of the public rather than improving it. For that reason, I felt I had no choice but to disapprove them."
The rules in question address ride operators, not the rides themselves, and are the byproduct of a provision in a bill passed in the final days of this year's legislative session. The provision gave the Labor Department new authority in amusement park regulation, requiring it to certify ride operators in addition to its existing responsibility of inspecting and certifying the rides themselves.
Unfortunately, that legislation did not provide the department with the additional manpower necessary to conduct such operator certifications, raising concerns about the agency's ability to perform its new and existing duties in a timely and professional manner. Without proper staff, the additional workload could easily have led to a backlog in both ride inspections and operator certifications, indirectly jeopardizing ride safety in the process.
"With state and county fairs opening all across Oklahoma this month, the stage was set for a regulatory train wreck that would not have been in the best interest of fair patrons. We will be working with the labor department in the days and weeks to come to draft a strong set of regulations that will address all concerns and protect the public at large," said Gov. Henry.
The governor also noted that the new law authorizing certifications of such operators gave the Labor Department until June 1, 2009, to promulgate the rules in question. Accordingly, sufficient time remains to address the certification issue in a manner that will enhance safety without causing unnecessary danger, confusion or uncertainty.
Source: Oklahoma Governor's Office
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