A fairground safety expert has weighed in on whether parents should be concerned about rides at fairs, following an incident at Sydney's Royal Easter Show over the weekend.
Over the weekend, a child was seen on the Free Fall ride at the Easter show without a harness, the other children in the photo were restrained.
A picture of the child on the ride quickly gained traction on social media, understandably leaving parents concerned.
The ride has been shut down indefinitely and Fair Trading Minister Eleni Petinos confirmed SafeWork NSW would investigate the incident.
"I can confirm that I have instructed SafeWork NSW to explore shutting the Free Fall ride for the remainder of the 2022 Sydney Royal Easter Show if patrons' safety cannot be guaranteed," Ms Petinos said.
The ride will not be operational until a full investigation has been completed by engineers, who give it a green-light.
SafeWork NSW Inspectors will continue to be a presence for the remainder of the show.
An update regarding the Free Fall carnival ride. pic.twitter.com/zh3Li13SyX
— The Sydney Royal Easter Show (@eastershow) April 10, 2022
"The safety of patrons at the Show is paramount and we have shut down the kids’ Free Fall ride following a reported issue with a harness, where the emergency stoppage function was activated successfully by the ride operator," the Royal Easter Show said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia.
"A full investigation is underway and once we get the reports from SafeWork NSW and the specialist engineer, we will determine whether the ride will run again."
All adult carnival rides were shut down on Monday night after a brawl erupted and a youth was fatally stabbed.
The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW said it was shocked and saddened by the teenager's death and the "adult carnival" rides area would remain closed on Tuesday.
Expert's advice on safety of carnival rides
Stephen Flanagan, a British fairground safety expert, compiled the expert witness report for the prosecution of Alton Towers theme park in the UK following a serious crash in 2015.
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Mr Flanagan said no leisure activity is completely risk-free and going to a fairground of sorts carries less risk than many other activities.
"For instance, one study has shown that a set time spent on a fairground ride involves approximately 20 times less risk than the same amount of time spent riding a horse," he said.
"That said, the nature of the hazard is high, so if things do go wrong, fatalities and/or serious injuries are a likely outcome."
Speaking to the Today Show on Tuesday, the mother of the child who was without the harness claims the ride started without his harness being attached.
"I know people make mistakes, but unfortunately it's just it could have cost his life," Skylena Boustani said of the incident.
Mr Flanagan said observing a ride before getting on, or allowing a child to, will give you confidence.
"It's human nature to watch a ride in operation before trying it out," he said.
"Usually this is to judge whether the individual or their child, will be able to cope with it. That time can be used to observe whether the ride appears in good physical condition and is operating smoothly, with no unusual noises."
Are theme parks or travelling fairs safer?
Mr Flanagan added it's also important to watch the staff operating the ride beforehand.
People should make sure staff are sticking to a set routine when loading passengers.
"For most rides, passenger restraints are needed, and observing whether the staff are physically checking that each passenger's restraint is in position and securely locked, will be the key measure which will give confidence that the ride is being properly operated," he said.
Witnesses at the Easter Show on Sunday claimed it was patrons who screamed, prompting the ride to stop after seeing the child without a restraint.
It's difficult to draw comparisons between the risk of travelling or temporary fairs, like the Easter show, and permanent attractions, like theme parks.
However, based on Mr Flanagan's experience the risk of an accident at a travelling fair appears higher.
"Theme Parks and the like tend to be larger organisations with more developed management systems, who will be working hard to protect their reputation by remaining accident-free," he said.
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