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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Funfair safety under scrutiny
Fairground
The HSE can close fairgrounds if they are too dangerous
Investigators have carried out more than 2,000 safety checks on fairs and fairground operators in the past year.

Between March 1999 and April this year, officers from the Health and Safety Executive made 2,030 checks - either by visit or by contacting operators.

That is more than their target of 1,500 - and the HSE also hopes to have checked on every fair, every owner and every piece of equipment by the end of the year.

The executive can issue notices demanding improvement work be carried out urgently or close the ride or the fairground altogether if it is ruled to be dangerous.

If the rides are found to be safe, it is up to the operators whether they choose to continue to use them.

Shepherd's Bush, west London
One woman was killed at a London fair in May
All fairground rides have to be inspected annually by health and safety officers.

In 1998-99 there were 397 accidents on fairgrounds and amusement parks, but no fatalities.

Last year, the HSE served 26 prohibition notices on fairground operators, demanding they close until safety work was carried out, and the executive prosecuted operators for negligence on five occasions.

The executive is also working to set up a European standard in fairground equipment because at present it has no influence on attractions manufactured abroad.

'Onus on operators'

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has warned that it was up to fairground operators to carry out a proper risk assessment on their rides.

Peter Cornall, water and leisure safety officer for RoSPA, said: "The onus is on the operators to carry out a proper risk assessment.

"If they haven't done something right, then they will be prosecuted."

Small travelling fairs have to be checked and provided with a licence by the local authority, he said, while larger theme parks are licensed by the HSE.

Mr Cornall added: "It is very hard to keep track of travelling fairs, but local authorities need to look very carefully at their system of checking them."

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