Most OSHA accident investigations involve fairly mundane workplaces, such as construction sites, factories and farms. But last spring, OSHA investigators were called to look into safety issues in one of the world’s most unusual work environments—the circus.
They were responding to a May 2014 incident in Rhode Island in which eight aerialists for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were badly hurt when their equipment failed and they plunged more than 15 feet to the ground as horrified audience members looked on.
The aerialists were performing an act called a “Hair Hang” when the carabiner used to support them failed. Eight aerialists, along with a ninth employee who was struck by the falling performers, were seriously injured.
Graphic video of the accident ran on TV news and went viral on the Internet.
OSHA’s inspection determined that the carabiner had not been properly rigged.
The agency cited the circus for one serious violation of occupational safety standards.
The circus agreed to settle the case on April 23. The settlement requires Ringling Bros. to implement ongoing safety enhancements in aerial acts.
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