Florida's safety rules for fair rides among toughest in country

- Inspectors at the Florida State Fair did their final rounds Thursday morning as they prepared for the roughly 500,000 visitors expected to visit the fairgrounds in the coming weeks.

All 107 rides and the dozens of games all have to be looked at to make sure they're ready to go by opening day.

"[Safety is] top of the list. You got to put it first. There's no shortcuts," said Jonathan Brooks, President of Wagner Consulting Group, which is an independent ride inspecting company. "The way we approach it from our company's standpoint is I inspect every piece just like my children are going to get on it."

Florida law requires an outside set of eyes double check the work done by inspectors with the Florida Department of Agriculture.

That's where Brooks' company comes in.

"The inspections start from A to Z, from the ground up, from side to side," he said. "We've been looking at the rides since they were getting assembled because sometimes it's easier to look at them when they start to assemble the pieces. We've been doing some non-destructive testing, which is checking welds and that kind of thing as things are being assembled."

Brooks said Florida has among the most rigorous safety-check programs in the country. The rides are inspected every time they are set up; in some states, those checks are annual.

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"[Inspectors are] going through and checking all the hardware, checking all the restraint systems, checking all the safety systems, making sure that they're all operating properly and according to all the standards and according to the manufacturing specifications, as well as the Florida law," Brooks said.

Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and State Attorney's Office checked out the games to make sure they're fair for participants.

Sheriff Chad Chronister did one last walk-through Thursday morning.

"It'll be a long day for our investigators to make sure that every booth is tested, every game is examined, again, to make sure that the fair-goer can come here, have a good time, but has an opportunity to win that prize," the sheriff said.

The State Fair runs through February 19.


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