The federal workplace safety agency has fined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $7,000 after determining the circus was at fault for improperly installing equipment that resulted in a horrible malfunction which injured nine performers, according to the Boston Globe.
The stunt, which was performed in Providence, Rhode Island, in May, was basically a “human chandelier.” Eight performers were strung up and hanging by their hair.
Unfortunately, as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration discovered, excessive weight on a carabiner caused a metal loop to fail, and as a result, all eight acrobats plummeted to the ground 15 to 20 feet below, as reported by NBC News.
All eight of the performers, as well as one worker on the ground, suffered injuries, including two who suffered severe spinal cord injuries. Additionally, five had open fractures and one had a lacerated liver.
Jeffrey Erskine, acting deputy regional administrator of OSHA’s New England location issued a statement, as reported by the Boston Globe.
“Equipment failures can lead to tragic results. To prevent these types of incidents, employers need to not only ensure that the right equipment is being used, but also that it is being used properly. The safety and well-being of employees depend on it.”
Stephen Payne, a spokesperson for Feld Entertainment that operates the circus, says they disagree with OSHA’s conclusions.
In a statement made to NBC News, Payne says, “We don’t necessarily agree with a conclusion that the way the caribiner was loaded was the sole cause of this accident.”
He continues to explain his point of view, according to the Boston Globe.
“We don’t know exactly why the carabiner failed… But we have 144 years of experience putting on the greatest circus. Our operations folks have a great deal of experience in rigging acts. We are going to err on the side of caution and make that change for similar use in all of our shows.”
According to OSHA’s findings, they determined that circus staff not only violated industry practice, but the manufacturer’s instructions for the carabiner, as well. The circus staff attached the carabiner in a manner that pulled it in three directions, rather than two.
According to the Boston Globe, OSHA stated this misuse of equipment is what caused the malfunction in which performers were badly injured.
“This created a triaxial loading situation as opposed to the proper loading situation where the carabiner is loaded only at two points along its major axis. This improper manner of loading resulted in the carabiner being overloaded, causing the carabiner to fail and having all eight employees attached to the rigging fall to the ground.”
OSHA says Feld Entertainment, Inc. has until November 15 to file an appeal for the fine and the citation.
[Photo Credit: TheBostonGlobe.com]