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Are carnival rides inherently dangerous?

They’re as much a part of summer as ants at a picnic — the proliferation of carnivals and street fairs with rides that pop up overnight for a few days or a weekend of fun before breaking camp and moving on to the next destination on the circuit. But how safe are those rides?

It depends. While rides will function normally most of the time, as we saw last month after a ride malfunctioned in Nebraska, when accidents do occur, the injuries can be catastrophic. Migrant workers hired as seasonal laborers at carnivals often work long hours setting up, operating and then dismantling rides under harsh conditions that some labor advocates believe threaten the safety and health of the workers and riders alike.

One report in 2013 by the College of Law Immigrant Justice Clinic at American University Washington found the carnival industry to be rife with frequent accidents as well as poor treatment of underpaid and overworked seasonal laborers. These men and women typically work 14-hour days, seven days each week, and their down time is spent on the road, traveling to new locations.

These factors combine to make a deadly brew of circumstances that can place carnival riders at high risk of injury or death from dangerous conditions.

During the height of summer, as many as 5,000 migrant workers run the midways of fairs and carnivals all over America, and none are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act laws regarding overtime and minimum wage laws for these seasonal workers.

Another potential danger is the lack of fluency with the English language. Warning signs on rides may only be printed in English, and the workforce has no knowledge of the rights that they may have if they notice safety violations and want to report them.

While it may be understandable that overworked carnival laborers may make egregious errors with the set up or operation of rides out of sheer exhaustion, that information does little to assist those with injuries from accidents.

If you are injured on a carnival ride this summer, you may have legal recourse to pursue the parties bearing responsibility for your injuries.

Source: NBC News, “Risky Rides: Carnival Workers' Grueling Hours May Threaten Safety,” John Carlos Frey, accessed June 03, 2016

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