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OSHA: Circus tent in fatal New Hampshire collapse not erected correctly

On the Job, Safety & Codes | April 1, 2016 | By:

A Sarasota, Fla.-based circus operator is contesting more than $33,000 in fines proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following the collapse of a circus tent in August 2015.

OSHA cited Walker International Events with 14 serious violations. The collapse killed a father and daughter in the audience and injured dozens of others, including two circus employees. The OSHA case will now be assigned to an administrative law judge, who will hear the case if a settlement can’t be worked out.

The tent that collapsed in Lancaster, N.H., during a sudden downdraft of air called a “micro-burst” on Aug. 3, 2015, was not properly erected, and the circus operator did not follow repeated National Weather Service storm warnings, according to an OSHA inspection.

OSHA inspectors determined that the tent was not erected in accordance with the professional engineer’s design and diagrams. The company failed to use the required tent stakes, properly anchor the stakes, remove and replace damaged stakes and disassemble and take down the tent amid expected winds exceeding 60 miles per hour.

Several other hazards were identified by OSHA that placed circus employees at risk of electric shock, burns, lacerations and struck-by injuries. These included ungrounded or misused electrical equipment; the use of inappropriate electrical equipment and connections in wet areas; lack of eye protection; unmarked exits; and lack of fire extinguishers inside the tent where employees worked with open flames.

A phone number for Walker International Events is no longer in service, and its website and Facebook page have been taken down.

National Safety Stand-Down

OSHA has designated May 2-6 as the third annual National Safety Stand-Down. The nationwide effort reminds and educates employers and workers in the construction industry of the serious dangers of falls—the cause of the highest number of industry deaths in the construction industry. Employers are encouraged to pause during one of the workdays between May 2 and 6 for topic discussions, demonstrations and training on how to recognize hazards and prevent falls. For more, visit the National Safety Stand-Down website.

Drones and U.S. law

Although the public comment period closed in April 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to issue the final small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) rule that is expected to ease requirements for drones used for commercial purposes. Until the final rule is issued, current rules apply, meaning that anyone using a UAS for business purposes must receive a Section 333 grant of exemption. (A Section 333 is not required for drones used for recreational purposes, although the FAA does require that hobby drones weighing more than .55 pounds be registered.)

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